Tag Archives: Zeppelin

20 August 1919

The DELAG airship Bodensee, LZ 120, at Friederichshafen, October 1919. (Library of Congress)

20 August 1919: The first airship built after World War I, Bodensee, LZ 120, made its first flight at Friedrichshafen, Germany, with Captain Bernard Lau in comand. LZ 120 was built for Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft, DELAG, (German Airship Travel Corporation) especially to carry a small complement of passengers. It was hoped that this would generate favorable publicity and help to restart intercity travel by air.

Bodensee was the first fully-streamlined airship. Its teardrop shape was developed by engineer Paul Jaray and had no cylindrical sections. The shape had been tested with scale models in a wind tunnel. LZ 120 was the first airship to have the gondola was attached directly to the bottom of the envelope, decreasing aerodynamic drag.

Scale model of LZ 120 in a wind tunnel at Göttingen, Germany
Scale model of LZ 120 in a wind tunnel at Göttingen, Germany

LZ 120 was a rigid airship, or dirigible, with a metal skeleton structure covered with a cotton fabric envelope. Twelve hydrogen-filled buoyancy tanks were contained within the structure.  A crew of 12 operated the airship and it could carry 20 passengers.

LZ 120 was 396.33 feet (120.8 meters) in length, with a diameter of 61.38 feet (18.71 meters). The airship had a volume of approximately 20,000 cubic meters (706,000 cubic feet). The airship had an empty weight of 13,646 kilograms (36,698 pounds) and a gross weight of 23,239 kilograms (51,233 pounds).

Maybach Mb IVa at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.
Maybach Mb IVa at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

LZ 120 was powered by four water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 23.093 liter (1,409.2 cubic inches) Maybach Motorenbau GmbH Mb IVa single overhead cam (SOHC) vertical inline six-cylinder engines with a compression ratio of 6.08:1 and four valves per cylinder. The Mb IVa produced 302 horsepower at 1,700 r.p.m., but was derated to 245 horsepower. Two engines were mounted in the aft centerline engine car and drove a two-bladed propeller with a diameter of 5.2 meters (17.1 feet) through a reversible gear train. Each of the other engines were mounted near the center of the airship, outboard. They each turned a two-bladed propeller with a diameter of 3.2 meters (10.5 feet), which were also reversible.

LZ 120 had a maximum speed of 82 miles per hour (132 kilometers per hour).

After two test flights under Captain Lau, Bodensee entered scheduled passenger service on 24 August 1919 under the command of Dr. Hugo Eckener. It flew from Friedrichshafen to the Oberwiesenfeld at Munich, then on to Berlin-Staaken.

In 1921, Bodensee was turned over to Italy as war reparations. It was renamed Esperia and continued in operation until 1928.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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8 August 1929

Dr. Hugo Eckener (1868–1954)

8 August 1929: The rigid airship Graf Zeppelin, LZ 127, under the command of Dr. Hugo Eckener, departed Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, heading east across the Atlantic Ocean on the first circumnavigation by air. The flight was sponsored by publisher William Randolph Hearst, who had placed several correspondents aboard.

Graf Zeppelin was named after Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin, a German general and count, the founder of the Zeppelin Airship Company. The airship was constructed of a lightweight metal structure covered by a fabric envelope. It was 776 feet (236.6 meters) long. Contained inside were 12 hydrogen-filled buoyancy tanks, fuel tanks, work spaces and crew quarters.

A gondola mounted underneath contained the flight deck, a sitting and dining room and ten passenger cabins. The LZ-127 was manned by a 36 person crew and could carry 24 passengers.

LZ 127 was powered by five water-cooled, fuel injected 33.251 liter (2,029.1 cubic inches) Maybach VL-2 60° V-12 engines producing 570 horsepower at 1,600 r.p.m., each. Fuel was either gasoline or blau gas, a gaseous fuel similar to propane. The zeppelin’s maximum speed was 80 miles per hour (128 kilometers per hour).

The route of the flight was from Lakehurst NAS to the LZ 127 home base at Friedrichshafen. Germany. After refueling, it continued across Europe, Russia and Siberia, non-stop to Tokyo, Japan, where it moored and refueled at the Kasumigaura Naval Air Station. This leg crossed 7,297 miles (11,743 kilometers) in 101 hours, 49 minutes. After five days in Japan, Graf Zeppelin headed east across the Pacific Ocean to Mines Field, Los Angeles, California. This was the first ever non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean. The distance was 5,986 miles (9,634 kilometers) and took 79 hours, 54 minutes. The transcontinental flight from Los Angeles back to the starting point at Lakehurst NAS, 2,996 miles (4,822 kilometers), took 51 hours, 13 minutes.

The total elapsed time for the circumnavigation was 21 days, 5 hours, 31 minutes. The route covered 20,651 miles (33,234 kilometers). The actual flight time was 12 days, 12 hours, 13 minutes, an average of 68.786 miles per hour (110.7 kilometers per hour).

Airship Graf Zeppelin, LZ 127. (Alexander Cohrs)

Graf Zeppelin made 590 flights and carried more than 13,000 passengers. It is estimated that it flew more than 1,000,000 miles. After the Hindenburg accident, it was decided to replace the hydrogen buoyancy gas with non-flammable helium. However, the United States government refused to allow the gas to be exported to Germany. With no other source for helium, in June 1938, Graf Zeppelin was deflated and placed in storage.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 August 1908

Zeppelin LZ 4 over the Bodensee. (Archiv der Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH)

5 August 1908: While on a 24-hour demonstration flight from its base at Lake Constance, down the Rhine to Strasbourg and return, the airship Zeppelin LZ 4 stopped for emergency repairs to one of its engines.

While moored at Flugfeld Stuttgart-Echterdingen, the airship was caught by a storm which tore it away from its mooring. It crashed and caught fire. LZ 4 was completely destroyed.

Airship LZ4 after destruction at Flugfeld Stuttgart-Echterdingen, 5 August 1908.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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4 August 1908

LZ 4 floating out of its hangar on Lake Constance, 0600, 4 August 1908. (Bain News Service/Library of Congress)

4 August 1908: Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin, to demonstrate the capabilities of his airship, LZ 4, departed from its floating hangar on Lake Constance at 6:22 a.m., 4 August 1908, on a planned 24-hour round trip down the Rhine to Basel, Strasbourg and Mainz, then back to Stuttgart, a distance of approximately 435 miles.

LZ-4 leaves the hangar on Lake Constance, 6:05 a.m., 4 August 1908.
LZ 4 leaves the hangar on Lake Constance, 6:05 a.m., 4 August 1908.
Zeppelin LZ 4 over Lake Constance. (Archiv der Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH)

LZ 4 was 136 meters (446 feet, 2 inches) long and 12.95 meters (42 feet, 6 inches) in diameter. Buoyancy was provided by hydrogen contained in 17 rubberized cotton gas bags inside the dirigible’s rigid structure. The total volume of the airship was 15,008 cubic meters (530,003 cubic feet). It was propelled by two Daimler engines, producing 105 horsepower each, and driving three-bladed propellers. Its maximum speed was 48 kilometers per hour (29.8 miles per hour).

LZ 4 over der Bodensee.
LZ 4 over der Bodensee.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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26 May 1909

This photograph shows LZ-5 backing out of its floating shed on Lake Constance, just before its first flight. (George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)
This photograph shows LZ-5 backing out of its floating shed on Lake Constance, just before its first flight. (George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)
Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin (1838–1917) (Bundesarchive)
Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin (Bundesarchive)

26 May 1909: The creation of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the rigid airship LZ-5 made its first flight at Lake Constance (Bodensee).

This was an experimental airship, 442 feet (136 meters) long, with a diameter of 42 feet (13 meters). Powered by two Daimler engines producing 105 horsepower each, it was capable of 30 miles per hour. The structure of the airship was a framework built of a light alloy covered with a fabric skin. Buoyancy was provided by hydrogen gas stored inside the envelope.

LZ-5 was purchased by the army and renamed ZII. It was destroyed in a storm 24 April 1910.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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