Graf Zeppelin Design and Technology

The design and construction of Graf Zeppelin were essentially conservative, based on tried-and-true technology developed over the Zeppelin Company’s decades of experience, and the ship was constructed of triangular Duralumin girders, with frames (or “rings”) spaced 15 meters apart.

Graf Zeppelin profile, showing rings, gas cells, and major elements. (click all photos to enlarge)

Graf Zeppelin profile, showing rings, gas cells, and major elements. (click all photos to enlarge)

The Limited Shape and Size of Graf Zeppelin

The shape and size of Graf Zeppelin was not ideal aerodynamically (in terms of performance), structurally (in terms of strength), or economically (in terms of payload).

The design of the ship was determined — and limited — by the size of the construction shed at Friedrichshafen, which had inner dimensions of 787 feet in length and 115 feet in height.

Since greater size meant greater efficiency in long distance operation, the challenge for Ludwig Dürr and his design team was to create a ship with the largest possible gas capacity that could be built within the confines of the construction shed:

The Graf Zeppelin was designed to have the maximum gas-carrying capacity that could be built within the limitations of the Friedrichshafen construction shed.

The Graf Zeppelin’s hull was the largest shape that could be built within the rectangular limits of the Friedrichshafen construction shed.  The ship was designed to have the maximum gas-carrying capacity that could be built with the limits of the shed.

The ship they designed was a long, thin cylinder, 776 feet long and 100 feet in diameter, with a gondola situated far forward, so that it could be slung under the hull where it began to rise toward the bow.  The height of the ship from the bottom of the gondola to the top of the hull was 110 feet, just barely clearing the arches of the shed.

LZ-127’s long, slim hull was not the most aerodynamically efficient shape (which was a lesson learned from the efficient teardrop design of Bodensee and Nordstern); it was not the most structurally effective shape (since the thin hull was vulnerable to bending stresses); and it was not the most economically practical design (since its relatively small size limited payload on long flights), but it was the best that could be achieved within the limitations of the hangar at Friedrichshafen.

Keel of Graf Zeppelin, showing traditional triangular girder construction.

Keel of Graf Zeppelin, showing traditional triangular girder construction.  (click all photos to enlarge.)

Graf Zeppelin under construction, showing Duralumin frames, 15 meters apart.

Graf Zeppelin under construction, showing Duralumin frames, 15 meters apart.

The Use of Blau Gas

But Graf Zeppelin did incorporate one especially notable innovation, in the use of Blau gas fuel for its five engines.  One of the challenges of lighter-than-air powered flight has always been the need to account for the loss of weight as fuel is burned by the ship’s engines.  As gasoline or diesel fuel is consumed during flight, the ship becomes lighter, and without a means to compensate for this change, lifting gas must be vented to maintain the ship’s equilibrium.  The Zeppelin Company’s innovative solution to this issue with Graf Zeppelin was the use of a gaseous fuel, similar to propane, named Blau gas after its inventor, Dr Hermann Blau.  Since Blau gas is similar in weight to air, its consumption during flight did not significantly change the aerostatic balance of the ship, and so it was not necessary to valve lifting gas to compensate for Blau gas burned by the engines.

Blau gas was also more efficient to carry than gasoline, and extended the ship’s range by over 30 hours of flying time; the approximately one million cubic feet of Blau gas carried by Graf Zeppelin could power the ship for over one hundred hours, but if that million cubic feet of Blau gas had been replaced by hydrogen, the additional hydrogen could have lifted only enough gasoline to power the ship for 70 hours or less.

Cross-section of LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin

Cross-section of LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin

The Blau gas was carried in 12 cells (Kraftgaszelle, or “power gas cells”), in the lower section of 12 of the ship’s 17 gas cell bays, beneath the hydrogen cells (Traggaszelle, or “lift gas cells”).  Of Graf Zeppelin’s total gas capacity of 3,707,550 cubic feet, 1,059.300 cubic feet was available for Blau gas.  The ship did also carry a supply of gasoline, so that if the ship were heavy, the engines could burn gasoline instead of Blau gas, lightening the ship without the need to drop ballast.

The use of Blau gas was quite hazardous, and many people believe Graf Zeppelin’s Blau gas presented a greater danger to safety than the ship’s hydrogen.  The gas cells of that era were not impermeable and always leaked to some extent, and small tears and other minor leaks were also common.  Since Blau gas has a similar density to air, escaping Blau gas did not rise like hydrogen but rather settled to the bottom of the hull, including the keel and into the gondola itself, and could even flow out toward the engines.  This was an even bigger problem when the ship was on the ground, especially inside an enclosed hangar, since there was no flow of air to carry the gas away.

It should always be remembered that Graf Zeppelin was basically an experimental “proof of concept” design, and that the design of ship was limited by practical considerations such as the size of the construction shed at Friedrichshafen.  While a clever response to these limitations in some ways, Blau gas had never before been used in a zeppelin, and it would never be used again.

Water Ballast

When it did become necessary to drop ballast to maintain equilibrium, Graf Zeppelin could look to the 17,640 lbs of water it carried as trim ballast, as well as up to 5,280 lbs of water as emergency ballast, and 3,520 lbs of water carried for drinking, cooking, and washing (which was kept on board after use).

LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin dropping water ballast during landing.

LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin dropping water ballast during landing.

Graf Zeppelin was powered by five Maybach VL-2 12-cylinder engines, which could develop 550hp at maximum revolutions, and 450 hp at 1400 RPM in cruise.

One of Graf Zeppelin's two port engine gondolas, under construction.

One of Graf Zeppelin’s two port engine gondolas, under construction.

Graf Zeppelin's five engine gondolas under construction.

Graf Zeppelin’s five engine gondolas under construction.

Typical Speed and Altitude

The ship typically cruised at 72 MPH, at an altitude of 650 feet above ground level, but it also flew as high as 6,000 feet on occasion (for example, when crossing the Stanovoy mountain range in far eastern Russia during its Round-the-World flight).  Graf Zeppelin also cruised well below 650 feet when necessary, as it was German practice to reduce the stress of vertical gusts by flying low to the ground during storms when possible.

Graf Zeppelin under construction.

Graf Zeppelin under construction.

Graf Zeppelin under construction.

Graf Zeppelin under construction.

Graf Zeppelin under construction, showing the keel at bottom of photograph, and the axial corridor above, which ran down the center of the ship.

Graf Zeppelin under construction, showing the keel at bottom of photograph, and the axial corridor above, which ran down the center of the ship.

73 Comments on "Graf Zeppelin Design and Technology"

  1. jeffrey g. buchalco | July 28, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Reply

    i would design my rigid airship to utilize an hho electrolyzer system to not only supply the gas bags, but to power the engines as well! the ‘water'(h2o) that would be the hydrogen source would also be utilized as ‘ballast’ (controllable) and would power the electrical generator(s?) as well for cooking, pumps to power the ‘trim’ controls and showers, radio, etc.! ([email protected])

  2. Did the cabin layout change in the Graf over the years? There are photos out there on the internet from that time showing the starboard side of the gondola, towards the front. One photo shows the entry door where most of us recall – abaft the galley and before the salon. However, another photo clearly shows the entry door just aft the forward control room and ahead of the galley. Did DELAG alter the design of the ship? I was unable to paste the images on this posting unfortunately.

  3. Lets see,,,,
    3520 pounds of potable water is about 422 gallons of water.

    That’s not much for 24 passengers and crew on a three day jaunt across the “pond” to America, or a four to five day run down to Rio.

  4. Hello! I can’t thank people like you anymore for keeping these sites going and giving lighter-than-air fans and hobbyists a chance to read and discover more about the thing they love. I’ve had an obsession with all sorts of lighter-than-air craft for a while now and am trying to build an 8 foot, long laser cut zeppelin with a rigid frame made from balsa wood. I’m currently trying to talk with people at hobby shops about how to get an RC system into my craft, but I would love to talk to other people about any problems found in my design. I don’t even know if the craft has to be aerodynamic! I made it mostly from scratch and I am hoping to find some way to refine it. I may be able to put the link for my model into the comments section later, since I need to upgrade to a later version of SketchUp in order to put my model on the workshop.

    • Instead of using would wood you should consider carbon fiber struts or aluminum struts for the rigidity of the airship. I have found that using wood causes a major weight increase which leads to a rather odd shaped design; not very aerodynamic.

  5. It has been awhile since I last entered this site. All of the comments seem very interesting since then. I am now 91 and I still remember seeing the Akron and the Macon flying over San Diego. They and the Hindenburg were absolutely the very largest sounding boards [sic piano] ever built and the sound of one passing over left a very indelible memory … I can shut my eyes and hear them yet!
    I lived near the town of Zeppelinheim in Germany for seven years and visited that museum several times, and got to the one in Friedrichafen once. A chance of a lifetime. I was allowed to pick up a girder from the Graf’ and was amazed that it hardly weighed anything. Please keep this website going – Thanks, Warren

    • I am absolutely astounded with this technology and its history. What an incredible experience that must have been! Thank you for sharing your memories of it.

  6. Michael Ingram | April 9, 2014 at 7:29 pm | Reply

    I am building a 5 foot replica of the Graf Zeppelin. I hope to follow up with a larger version. both lifted by helium and propelled by electric motors. I will update on how it goes.

    • Hello, Michael, I am interested in your project and would love to see it! I also would like to do something similar myself. Can you tell me where I might be able to find a detailed schematic or plan for the ship that includes dimensions? I haven’t a clue where to look, or possibly just how to query.

  7. Hello, I am interested in building a large scale ” flying model” of this aircraft for my grandson, I intend to construct it using a cardboard tube such as used in model rocketry for the gas {aka helium balloon }chamber.The construction will be balsa and tissue,I have been unsuccessful until now trying to find engineering drawings from which I could get lenghth diameter former and stringer locations ect… I was wondering if you could send me copies of those prints from which I can work.

    Thank You
    Russell Clonch

    1110 cambridge court
    New Carlisle ,ohio 45344

  8. Can I refer the enthusiasts again to the autobiography of Nevil Shute, “Slide Rule”, which gives an insight into the construction of the R101 and the reason for the subsequent demise of the R100. For me it explained a lot about the reasons why Brittain was not as successful as the Germans in developing a practical commercial airship. I am sure we have learned our lessons by now, but it is always good to keep in mind what history can teach us. I was fascinated by your website. Keep it going!

  9. Hi,
    I’m writing a novel, and was thinking about having a Graf Zeppelin as the main airship. For the sake of accuracy, what is the minimum crew for a Graf? Could just one or two men pilot one across the Atlantic? If not, do you know of a zeppelin design that has a pretty good amount of cabin space, and could be flown by two men?

  10. Hi Dan!

    Its me who is writing a thiesis on airships.
    I was wondering do you have informations about the engines? and do you know what kind of engines would be a perfect use today, futurewise for an airship? what is the main reference for the materials and construction/structure that you have used?

    Best regards

  11. Hi Dan!

    Its me who is writing a thiesis on airships.
    I was wondering do you have informations about the engines? and do you know what kind of engines would be a perfect use today, futurewise for an airship? what is the main reference for the materials and construction/structure?

    Best regards

  12. The delta shaped design would never works all wing design aircraft always have a center of gravity problem. A new Zeppelin design should be saucer shaped with the cabin mounted center below. Were the Electric motors would be mounted for propulsion and directional control. The upper skin of the saucer would be flexible solar panels as the skin, it having a larger upper surface area for sun exposure then the cigar shaped ones. It could be built and hangared in a large geodesic dome.

    • Solar Ship would tend to disagree- their delta-shaped solar-powered ships are already flying. They have external gondolas, however, and use a very small non-rigid delta wing, which lowers the center of gravity drastically.

      Saucers have poor aerodynamic performance for a given volume, and are susceptible to upstarts and downdrafts. Lifting-body shapes- such as those used by the Aeroscraft, LEMV and Skytug- have smaller forward profiles(which means reaching higher speeds using less energy), and have smaller vertical profiles, which means downdrafts and updrafts don’t affect them as much. They have about 3 to 4 times the volume of a cigar-shaped airship with an identical side profile(known sometimes as the lateral “sail area” which crosswinds affect). True, this does make them less efficient because their frontal area is larger than the ideal cigar shape, necessitating more powerful engines, but they remain much more efficient than helicopters.

  13. I have always thought of building a rigid airship of my own but Not the cigar shape, one shaped Like a delta wing and not with o gravity but with 10% gravity. What do you all think about feasibility? The wing idea will make up for lost lift and should make the craft far more stable. What do you think?

    • Actually that has been the direction for a few decades.making a lifting body design that uses both the lifting gas and the affects of a run of the mill aircraft. There was one actually built and tested I believe back in the late 60’s early 70’s that did very well in a small craft, and from later computer models showed it would do as well in the larger versions. Unfortunately funds dried up back then. It was called an “AEREON 26”. John McPhee in his book “The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed”, wrote about the early experiments that took place in 1971.

      • Delta winged airships would have a far greater surface are than a more tubular, round hull with less volume. An in airship talk, volume accomodates gas cells which equal greater lift. Plus what kind of hanger would accomodate such a ship for service, or shelter. Airships usually don’t remain outdoors for their entire life and require shelter for unfavorable weather. Remaining outside during a passing squall is not an option for airships. The crew of the USS Shenandoah can attest to that if they were still around.

  14. Dan, is putting a page about the Graf Zeppelin 2 on your to-do list? I would like to learn more about it and Wikipedia has barely anything about it.

  15. I see a spot on the plan that’s labeled for cargo. How was cargo loaded and unloaded on the airship?

  16. WARREN SMITH | June 19, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Reply

    In the future consider a large mushroom shaped airship with a small nuclear reactor. and auxillary sources of emergancy power. This ship would be 100-m in diameter, with heated He as a lift medium and four multi-axial propellers. The cell itself would be constructed of carbon fiber and super light polyfoam for rigidity. It could carry cargo and unhurried passengers to and from operational sights not much larger than football fields. One cruise dispatch would start say, in San Francisco, and ascend to the jetstream and drift east to the next stop continuing ever eastward around the world stopping here and there along the way. Slow but sure, and cheaper than anything, and green as all get out.

    • Apart from the nuclear reactor. To generate sufficient heat any power unit would weigh in the 10s of tonnes. Current nuclear fuel containers [no heat exchanger, just safe storage] are designed to with stand a 2m vertical drop and weigh around 35tonnes. To design a reactor that was safe and light enough for commercial use is a wonderful idea. No-one has done it yet.

      • NASA voyagers 1 and 2 use plutonium 238 thermoelectric generators. They still have power to this day for main craft functions. Think of what’s possible today considering the voyager program was 70s.

    • Flying along in the jet stream would necessitate a pressurized cabin. The ride would be a bumpy one when entering and leaving the jet stream which is why airline pilots avoid it.

  17. Why do people think it could only take one rich person to fund a ridgid airship project for the future? This website proves that there are still many airship supporters out there. Why not have an organization that would accept donations from average people to fund such a project? Count Zeppelin got donations to fund a few of his airships.
    So why wouldn’t it work again?

    • They already do- it’s called investment. If you really want to see an airship comeback, buy shares in Hybrid Air Vehicles and Aeros Corp.

      Hybrid Air Vehicles, which manufactures hybrid catamaran airships with a lifting-body shape like some small rocket airplanes in the past, is just cinching up the last bits of the LEMV spy airship. More recently, they signed a deal with a Canadian airline, Discovery Air, for up to 45 Hybrid Airship cargo liners, each with a gas volume slightly greater than that of the Graf Zeppelin’s Hydrogen capacity and capable of lifting 50 tons of cargo. They’re expecting the LEMV to be in-theater in 2012 and the first cargo airship flying in 2014.

      Aeros is working on their own mysterious, extremely advanced hybrid Zeppelin, but details on that are not forthcoming.

      Invest in one of those! Hybrid Air Vehicles is expanding very rapidly, and Aeros has been named small business of the year of the USA twice. They’re both solid investments with their own military contracts and civilian products.

    • It would take one person to corral the enthusiasm and channel the energies towards the goal. Dr. Eckener was a talent for not only operating airships, but also promoting them. The probable sources for funding would be investors wanting to make a profit off LTA travel and for that, you would have to start at the travel and leisure industry. Target the cruise lines who might want to add to the on the water experience with a over the water experience. Target entertainment giants as well for possible interest.
      All it takes it to do what Eckener did – make one prototype (the Graf Zeppelin), fly it all over the world and wait for the phone to ring with orders for more.
      It can be done. It will cost a lot to start off with but once the prototype is flying and showing itself all over the place, interest will catch on, and folks will come, “they will most certainly come”.

  18. What a wonderful website! I would love to have been able to see one of these airships flying, and to be able to travel on one. What I find most amazing is the sheer scale of them, and that central walkway being open, must have been a very unnerving experience to walk along between the gas cells, especially in flight.

  19. Tremendous website- my compliments. I built a 1:250 model of the LZ127 about 40 years ago and am in processs of restorng it. A Dutch firm, Malmmos, only furnished directions in Dutch. Thank God they included a diagram. Its the best model in an iconic aircraft Ive run across.


  20. Most impressive website – very timeconsuming in a very pleasant way (probably for you too). I am wondering: For the intercontinental trips, what kind of navigational equipment did the zeppelins carry? Especially when traveling over oceans or across more or less uncharted Siberia?

    Best regards Erik Lund, Denmark

    • Edit: Found it – at least with regards to the Hindenburg. Can I assume that the equipment carried by the Graf Zeppelin in 1929 resembled that of Hindenburg in 1936 (though probably a more prototypical version)?

    • Dead Reckoning and Celestial Navigation.
      The airships of the 30’s navigated using the same practices that ships used then. They plotted their position via dead reckoning and taking noon sights on the sun, as well as evening star sights. With these tools, a good compass, precise timepieces, and accurate charts, they could reasonably account for drift, leeway and headwinds. When they were in cloudy conditions for extended periods of time over the Atlantic, they would look for that chance to take a sextant to grab a star or the sun for a brief moment in order to establish their “fix”. Otherwise, it was dead reckoning all the way using the old, tried and true speed/time/distance formulas every sailor knows.

  21. Gas bags appear to be made from cow intestine, manufactured to the standards of “goldbeater’s skin”

    A thousand sheets is less than an inch thick!

  22. how much could an airship be operated by the auxillerly control car in the tail?

  23. Nicolas Uribe | May 11, 2010 at 10:08 am | Reply

    Great site!
    I’ve been an airship freak all my life, and thought I’d read everything available on the internet – till now.

  24. Hi – Fabulous site – I only ask that the photos be provided at greater resolution (if possible).

    It seems to me that the airship will once more grace our skies as fossil fuels decline in use due to cost and environmental considerations but more so because of the natural synergy of acres of skin combined with low cost/high efficiency photovoltaic cell technology (light weight, high energy density lithium-air batteries for night flight).

    Jet travel will be for the very rich only and if you want to get to from London to Sydney quickly, then it’ll be Richard Branson’s sub-orbital passenger space craft that’ll take you there in less than 3 hours – for a price!

    Oh yes, and we’ll all be driving around in electric cars.

    All this within the next 50 years…

    • Hi Martin
      I think you are too optimistic about electric cars. The over all efficiency for an electric car is far worse than a hydrocarbon powered car. Electricity is a secondary energy source coal, gas, petroleum, wood pulp and biomass fuels are primary and thus do not suffer from the electromechanical (EM) losses associated with electrical generation. Solar also has a very long way to go to beat EM generation of electrical power in terms of KW/H/dollar. As far as pollution is concerned electrical power just moves the location of the pollution and there is more of it because of the poor overall efficiency.

  25. Though fasinating it seems to be one of the most impractible forms of tranportation and i love these things.But 200 + ground crew hydrogen alot of science mabye today the very rich could perfect it but then it was quite expensive for a fare back then. let me know what you think? i love your website James

    • Why did the folks who paid $5000 for a ticket to fly the Concorde to London from JFK New York in two hours when they could pay $600 to $750 to take 7 hours to make the same flight? Was the view better? Was the food better? Did the Concorde for anything better than the 747? Aside from flying higher and far faster and far less efficiently, the Concorde shouldn’t be profitable, but it was. It was very profitable when the organizers of the plane stopped trying to compete with the common jetliner, and gave their product snob appeal. Once they did that it worked! What’s snob appeal? A luxury seat in a tight cabin. Complimentary champagne when the plane reached mach 2. The dignity and prestige at being someone who flew faster than a bullet.
      Now ask yourself, if I pay half that, and gave the traveler a private room room with a bed to sleep in, a private bathroom with a shower, a table to dine at, gourmet fare, a lounge chair to relax in and all (except the bathroom) with one hell of a view. So what if it takes five times longer than a jet? How much of a hurry are we in these days?
      What would that be worth to you?

  26. Where did the crew live/sleep etc?

  27. I am probably mistaken, but the rearmost engine car seems to have restricted the Graf’s overall diameter, according to that hangar diagram. If they had scrapped said engine, could the zeppelin builders have increased her volume?

    • I think they needed that aft engine to act as the rear landing gear and tethering point. The aft lower fin may have not had a landing platform in it.

      • Were that the case, I imagine a retractable wheel on the fin would have proven a good solution.

        If four more powerful engines were not available, perhaps the needed fifth could have been put in the tail–admittedly in somewhat “dirty” airflow.

        It may have been the hangar was taller than wide inside. The tallest circular section would, then, have left unused hangar height for the fifth, hanging engine. Clever design of the cross rigging in the rings might, though, have allowed for an oval cross section with proportionally greater gas volume. That, though, would have left a poorer ratio of hull to volume, negating part of the increase in gas volume created.

        What they came up with got the job done, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t consider all of the above.

  28. Wow, where did you get these photos? I have a shelf full of zeppelin books and have never seen these. That closeup of the cover stitching and the room full of engine pods under construction… amazing!

    I’ve always wished that someone with a bunch of money would build a real zeppelin using the traditional methods and make a museum out of it. It wouldn’t even need to fly and portions of the covering on one side could be left off to display the framework. Imagine what an amazing sight that would be. I wonder if there are enough records of the original construction techniques to even make that possible?

    • WARREN SMITH | June 19, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Reply

      First of all, you must consider the size of this thing. Think RMS Queen Mary from the waterline up!

    • They already have a full-sized mockup of the Hindenburg’s nose, gondola and passenger decks in the Zeppelin Museum in the famous airship-building(still today!) city of Friedrichschafen. It’s pretty amazing.

  29. What a pity we no longer have Zeppelins able to carry passengers trans-continentally-a loss of a charactered form of travel as was the demise of flying-boats, and if one had to travel by conventional aircraft, the passing of the great airliners of the piston engine era-DC6’s, Constellations, Stratocruisers. The modern jet airliner may be faster and safer, but is not a pleasant travel experience compared to what we have lost.
    One major disadvantage of the Graf Zeppelin was its lack of cabin heating-trips on the North Atlantic Route must have been chilling, as Lady Grace Drummond-Hay notes. Did any airships of the era have heating? R100/101?

    • Hindenburg’s passenger area was heated with air warmed by the cooling systems of the forward engines, and heating was added to Graf Zeppelin’s lounge later in the ship’s career.

      • Francisco Carvallo | August 31, 2010 at 11:33 am | Reply

        Hi Dan!

        I also believe that the USS Akron/Macon twins had heated interiors. they also had hot/cold water and unlike the Hindenburg a few showers instead of just one and a propane burning oven to prepare food (something good old H2 prevented the Hindenburg from having).

    • Thanks for that information Dan-fantastic site by the way-I knew Hindenberg was heated, but interested that Graf Zeppelin was in passenger lounge latterly (or Drawing Room as Lady Grace Drummond May charmingly says). I was wondering if R101 or R100 were though. Probably not? To return to Hindenberg’s heating, it must have been rather primitive and combined with the passenger cabins being inside the hull, rather than the Graf Zeppelin’s gondola with windows for the cabins, making them either too hot when working or too cold when not…

  30. what was the fabric used on the skin and what was the dope used?

  31. In my eighties and still love airships. Thank you for the info and owing to the world situation, airships will in many years to come will be the thing of the future

  32. It seems strange to have an odd number of engines (5). There must have been three on one side and two on the other. Didn’t this make the airship want to go round in circles because of the unbalanced thrust? And wouldn’t the weight distribution be out of balance?

    • One was along the centerline, aft of the gondola.

    • Francisco Carvallo | August 31, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Reply

      Thank God for five engines Donald as Wikipedia passage bellow details:
      While the Graf Zeppelin would eventually have a safe and highly successful nine-year career, the airship was almost lost just a half a year after its maiden flight while attempting to make its second trip to the United States in May 1929. Shortly after dark on 16 May, the first night of the flight (“1. Amerikafahrt 1929”), the airship lost two of its five engines while over the Mediterranean off the southwest coast of Spain forcing Dr. Eckener to abandon the trip and return to Friedrichshafen. While flying up the Rhône Valley in France against a stiff headwind the next afternoon, however, two of the remaining three engines also failed and the airship began to be pushed backwards toward the sea.

      As Dr. Eckener desperately looked for a suitable place to crash-land the airship, the French Air Ministry advised him that he would be permitted to land at the Naval Airship Base at Cuers-Pierrefeu about ten miles from Toulon to use the mooring mast and hangar of the lost airship Dixmude (France’s only dirigible which crashed in the Mediterranean in 1923 resulting in the loss of 52 lives) if the Graf could reach the facility before being blown out to sea. Although barely able to control the Graf on its one remaining engine, Eckener managed to make a difficult but successful emergency night landing at Cuers.

  33. i am an air ship fanatic my self and have a great interest in them and wish they would bring them back did you Know that in one hours flight a modern jet uses the same amount of fuel that it would take an airship to travel several thousand miles so with all the quests of finding more economical means of travel i dont know why they dont any ideas?

    • stolennomenclature | January 27, 2010 at 2:16 am | Reply

      You have to consider not just the amount of fuel used, but the number of passengers carried and the time taken per flight. The unknown jet you are using for the comparison might use 4 times as much fuel but carry 4 times as many passengers. It will likely travel at least 4 times as fast, so be able to make four times as many flights in the same time period, and so one plane will do the same job as four airships. In addition, the plane will require a much smaller crew, less food, etc. All these things have to be taken into account to.

      • Francisco Carvallo | November 23, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Reply

        Very true, but you’re comparing 2010 technology vs 1920’s technology. If you were to compare apples vs apples: planes at he time could fly 300 miles tops. They were noisy, smelly, even more cramped than today’s airplanes and VERY dangerous to fly in. The Graff Zeppelin could travel almost 6,000 miles without stopping and carrying 65 people (including crew) + 27 tons of cargo. Absolutely nothing in the airplane’s field at the time could do that. If you compare that to the 10,500 mile range + 84-87 mph routine top speed+ 100 crew + 82 ton cargo capacity on top of that the USS Macon could carry, then the airplanes of the time were not even on the same league. Modern airships are much more efficicient: the Zeppelin NT uses 75 kg/hr of fuel, carries 14 people +1,900kg of cargo vs 100 kg fuel/hr for a 2 seater helicopter. The modern Zep needs only 2 people for ground handling crew as well.

        • stolennomenclature | November 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Reply

          I was not comparing 2010 with 1920s technology. Jason original question (if you read it carefully) was asking why they did not bring airships back in present times.
          The NT might be comparable in some respects to a helicopter, but Jason was comparing airships with passenger jets, not helicopters. The NT only makes relatively short hops – it would not be suitable for long (distance) trips. Such trips would require food, stewardessess, much more fuel, etc. I believe all my comments are quite valid.

          • Francisco Carvallo | November 25, 2010 at 12:49 am | Reply

            I’m sorry if I came off as being snotty stolennomenclature, that was not my intention and I apologize if I did. The Zep NT has the drawback of being a semi-rigid ship: It has nowhere near the carrying capacity of a true rigid. There are plans to build a 500 ft Z-airship in Europe that can carry 45 passangers, which is more than double the original Graf Zeppelin’s passenger capacity. This, however, doesnot include a very nice restaurant/lounge area, nor does it include a true kitchen area. Again, the semi rigid design doesnot allow for a true cruise airship, but were in the terms of 21st century airships comparatively to the 20th century this is 1912-1914 in passanger airship tours. My, how does history repeat itself!
            Have a wonderful Holiday season!

            • stolennomenclature | November 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Reply

              I never thought you were being snotty – sorry if my reply gave you that impression. I think it would be great if the large passenger airship were able to come back with 21st century technology. Anything has to be better than the current passenger jets where people are packed in like caged chickens, hoping they won’t get a DVT before they land and have to have their leg amputated. Everything that matters is worse today then it was then. Technology often only makes things cheaper, not better.


  35. Wie kan mij de namen van de bemanning en hun fuctie van de Grafzeppelin bezorgen.Bedankt

  36. luiz a. r. pinho | October 9, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Reply

    já imaginou, reduzir todo peso supérfluo, (decoração desnecessária), pé direito menor e outros ‘enxugamentos’ no peso bruto do dirigível, e transportar milhares de litros de água para combater incêndios em qualquer local do planeta? eu imagino isto desde 1977.

  37. That picture of the Graf with the skin not completely on during construction raises a question: was the skin of the ship applied in sections or is it one continuous piece of fabric?

    • Thanks for your question, Tael.

      The covering was applied in rectangular sections which were stitched to the framework, and then the separate panels were connected with a strip of fabric and the whole covering was doped to make it water-tight. This photo illustrated the separate panels attached to the framework, and a strip of connecting fabric joining the sections:

  38. fantastic good this site. Ever in my life I was a fan of airships, a dream of a peaceful world. A shame that the projekt “Cargo lifter” was stopped. A lot of small shareholders lost money (me). The hangar is sold to a korean investor and is now used as a tropical recreation bath. However, good ideas seems to be also lighter than air.
    But your site is top

  39. Thank You so much ! !
    — Wonderfull photos and info !

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