Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin was born on this day in 1838.

Count Zeppelin (second from rght) during the American Civil War

Count Zeppelin (second from rght) during the American Civil War



Happy July 4, America

by Dan Grossman on July 4, 2015

July 4 Airship


Birthday Zeppelin

The world’s first zeppelin flew for the first time 115 years ago today, on July 2, 1900.

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin completed his first airship, LZ-1, in the winter of 1899 but decided to wait until the summer of 1900 before attempting to fly his new invention. The ship was inflated with hydrogen in June and made its maiden flight on July 2, 1900. The first flight lasted about 18 minutes and covered about 3-1/2 miles over the Bodensee (Lake Constance) at Manzell (near Friedrichshafen) in Southern Germany, not far from the Swiss border.


Luftschiff Zeppelin 1

LZ-1 (Luftschiff Zeppelin 1) was 420 feet long, 38-1/2 feet in diameter, and contained approximately 399,000 cubic feet of hydrogen in 17 gas cells made of rubberized cotton fabric. Two metal gondolas were suspended below the ship (one forward and one aft) and each gondola housed a 4-cylinder water-cooled Daimler gasoline engine producing about 14 horsepower. Each engine was connected by long shafts to two outrigger propellers mounted on either side of the hull.  Pitch was controlled by a sliding weight suspended under the hull which could be shifted fore and aft; there were no elevators for pitch control, or fins for stability.

LZ-1 in its floating shed on the Bodensee

LZ-1 in its floating shed on the Bodensee

The first flight of LZ-1 was the culmination of years of planning by Count Zeppelin, but as a first attempt the ship had understandable weaknesses:  LZ-1 was overweight, and a severe lack of engine power and speed made it difficult to control in even slight winds; the engines themselves were unreliable, and one failed during the short maiden flight; the ship suffered from poor controllability due to its lack of horizontal or vertical stabilizing fins and control surfaces, and the sliding weight system jammed, eliminating pitch control; and most importantly, the structure itself lacked rigidity due to its weak tubular frame, which hogged during flight, with its center portion rising high above its drooping bow and stern.

Attempts were made to increase the rigidity of the framework and address the other problems, and two additional flights were made, but the flights did not impress the military representatives in attendance that Zeppelin’s project deserved public funds, and Count Zeppelin was out of money. Zeppelin was forced to dismantle LZ-1.

But while LZ-1 itself was not a success, Count von Zeppelin’s basic concept was sound — a rigid metal frame containing individual gas cells covered by fabric — and formed the basis for all future zeppelin airships.

Zeppelin airships are still flying over the Bodensee today.

Happy Birthday, Zeppelins!

Birthday Zeppelin


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Happy Canada Day

by Dan Grossman on July 1, 2015

R.100 in Canada

R.100 in Canada, 1930.


The people at British Pathé kindly send us a DM on Twitter (@Airships) about airship newsreels they have posted. We will be sharing them periodically on the blog.

USS Akron ZRS-4

Today’s selection are two films of the U.S. Navy airship ZRS-4 Akron, showing her operation as an airborne aircraft carrier and her tragic crash.


Airship Exhibit at New Museum in California

June 4, 2015

The New Museum Los Gatos is hosting an exhibition about airships. Giants in the Sky | The Rise and Fall of Airships will be a multimedia, interactive exposition including contemporary artwork, vintage photographs, artifacts, memorabilia, and video. The museum is located in Silicon Valley near San Jose and Moffett Field, home to the American naval […]

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Upcoming Changes to Goodyear Airship Fleet

June 2, 2015

An article by Jim Mackinnon (@JimMackinnonABJ) of the Akron Beacon Journal about changes to the Goodyear airship fleet: Two Goodyear airships now in Akron area; California blimp to be retired in August Thanks for keeping us up to date, Jim!

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A Visit to the Zeppelin Mast in Recife, Brazil

May 24, 2015

Last month I visited the world’s last remaining zeppelin mast, the Torre do Zeppelin in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. History of the Recife Zeppelin Field The landing field in Recife was the first zeppelin base in South America. Passenger and mail service to South America was an early dream of Hugo Eckener, who realized it was one of […]

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Hindenburg Disaster Anniversary – May 6, 1937

May 6, 2015

Every year on the sad anniversary of the loss of the airship Hindenburg I drink several toasts. To the memory of the airship in better times… To the memory of the man who made it all possible… And in memory of those who lost their lives.

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Easter Greetings from

April 5, 2015
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Anniversary of U.S.S. Akron crash – April 4, 1933

April 4, 2015

On this day in 1933, the U.S. Navy dirigible ZRS-4 Akron crashed in a storm off the coast of New Jersey, killing 73 of the 76 men aboard the airship.

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The American Navy’s “Passenger” Airship

February 25, 2015

U.S.S. Los Angeles was an American naval vessel, but her interiors were designed for civilian passenger service. Built as LZ-126 in Germany, Los Angeles was the brainchild of Hugo Eckener. The Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from constructing zeppelins, so to get around that restriction – and save the Zeppelin Company – Eckener proposed building […]

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Book about British Airship R.34

February 15, 2015

Flight of the Titan: The Story of the R34 is a (somewhat) recent book about the historic 1919 transatlantic crossing of the British airship R.34. Although it was published a few years ago I have not yet read the book — my copy is now on the way — but knowledgeable friends speak highly of it. The […]

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Happy Valentine’s Day from

February 14, 2015
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R.100, Petri Dishes, and the Wheat Rust Fungus

February 11, 2015

An interesting article on a scientific experiment carried out during R.100’s transatlantic crossing to Canada in 1930. And it’s always flattering to be quoted by the BBC.      

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Zeppelin Dining included in New Book about Meals in the Air

December 23, 2014

A newly published history of dining in the sky includes the era of passenger zeppelins. Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies discusses dining in the early DELAG airships as well as Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg, and even mentions the military airships of WWI. I was pleased to help with the book […]

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Airship Holiday Cards to Share with your Friends

December 22, 2014

Feel free to download and share by email, Facebook, Twitter, or however you choose. Happy Holidays, Helium Heads!

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Santa Rides a Blimp, not a Sleigh

December 21, 2014

In 1925 Santa Claus traded-in his sleigh for an upgrade to the Goodyear blimp Pilgrim and he has been floating rather than sleighing ever since. Pilgrim was the first advertising blimp operated by Goodyear and it was loaned to the old man of the North Pole to serve as the Santa Claus Express beginning in 1925. The tradition of […]

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Breaking News – U.S. Navy Airship Program Canceled; MZ-3A Blimp Grounded

December 8, 2014

The United States Navy’s MZ-3A airship program has been canceled, according to Lakehurst Operations Manager Rick Zitarosa. The MZ-3A crew has been furloughed and there is no pressure watch on the ship, which is sitting unattended at Hangar One at Lakehurst. The ship is a modified American Blimp Corporation A-170 series commercial blimp that has been operated by the […]

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Happy Birthday, Helium Airships!

December 1, 2014

Today is the anniversary of the first flight of a helium airship. On December 1, 1921, the U.S. Navy blimp C-7 took to the skies inflated with helium. The ship was commanded by Lt. Cdr. Ralph F. Wood, assisted by Lt. Cdr. Zachary Lansdowne, Lt. C.E. Bousch, and CMM Farriss. C-7 made several flights from Norfolk, […]

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