What is a Dirigible?
A dirigible is any powered LTA (lighter-than-air) craft that can be steered.
Although the term “dirigible” is often associated with large rigid airships such as the Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin, the word comes from the French verb “diriger” (“to steer”) and a refers is any LTA aircraft which is steerable (or “dirigeable,” in French), as opposed to free floating like a balloon. Blimps are dirigibles, as are semi-rigid airships like the Italia, Norge, and the modern Zeppelin NT.
Visit Dirigibles, Zeppelins, and Blimps to learn more about the various types of dirigible airships.
The “Age of the Dirigible” generally refers to the the Machine Age/Art Deco era of the 1920’s and 1930’s, when giant passenger airships like the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg carried travelers around the globe and the rigid airships of the United States Navy patrolled the skies.
Dirigible, the Movie
The 1931 Frank Capra film “Dirigible” tells the dramatic story of a fictional Antarctic rescue performed by the USS Los Angeles and includes archival footage of the Los Angales and other U.S. Navy LTA craft. The film also depicts the crash of a fictional Navy airship called USS Pensacola, based on the loss of the USS Shenandoah.
Dirigibles, Steampunk, and Dieselpunk
Dirigibles play a large role in the iconography of the Steampunk movement, but this is largely anachronistic as airships did not exist during the Victorian era celebrated by Steampunk. The airship is a creation of the 20th Century and the first zeppelin took to the skies in 1900, just six months before the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. The giant dirigibles of the 1930s are more appropriately reflected by the Machine Age aesthetic of Dieselpunk than the Industrial Revolution aesthetic of Steampunk.