Monday, March 29, 2010

Ville de Lucerne dirigible

Stamp depicting the Ville de Lucerne issued by Switzerland on 13th February, 1975.

Excerpt from Airship and Balloon News of  August 27, 1910

" V i l l e de L u c e r n e " a Success.
DURING the month that the airship " Ville de Lucerne " has
been in commission she has regularly made daily trips, except, of
course, when the weather has been bad. On several days more
than one trip has been made—as, for instance, on the 8thinst.,
when five excursions were made, the total number of persons carried
during the day being 48. On the third trip the passengers included
two little children, one 5 and the other 3 years old. In 15 days
21 ascents were made, and there was no difficulty in obtaining the
full complement of passengers at .£8 a head.
On the 14th inst. four trips were made in various directions over
the different lakes, and also over the city of Berne.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Airships after World War I

Stamps issued by Togo showing the LZ 4, at bottom left is the Henri Giffard airship also Charles's balloon

Stamps were issued in 1964 to commemorate first flight of the national air carrier AIR TOGO

A plaque, located at 61 Farringdon Road, London, commemorating a World War I Zeppelin raid on London.

Post World War I, the Allies demanded that the zeppelins built in 1920/21 be delivered to them as war reparations.  This temporarily brought to a halt further zeppelin manufacture.  However, Dr Hugo Eckener & his team kept looking for ways to circumvent Allied restrictions,  Their opportunity came in 1924 

The United States had started to experiment with rigid airships, constructing one of their own, the ZR-1 USS Shenandoah. They ordered another from the UK when the British R38 (ZR-2). However, the R38 (based on the Zeppelin L70, ordered as ZR-2) broke apart and exploded during a test flight above the Humber on 23 August 1921, killing 44 crewmen.

Dr. Eckener managed to acquire an order for the next American dirigible. Germany had to pay the costs for this airship itself, as they were set off against the war reparation accounts. But this was secondary for the Zeppelin company which looked at the potential for future orders. Engineer Dr. Dürr designed LZ 126 using all the expertise accumulated over the years. The company achieved its best Zeppelin so far, which took off for a first test flight on 27 August 1924.

LZ 126 was renamed ZR-3 USS Los Angeles and took off on its Transatlantic delivery flight from  Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst, New Jersey on 12th October, 1924.  The airship flew 8,050 kilometres  without any difficulties in 81 hours and two minutes. American crowds enthusiastically celebrated its arrival, and President Calvin Coolidge invited Dr. Eckener and his crew to the White House, calling the new Zeppelin an "angel of peace".

 USS Los Angeles flying over southern Manhattan

ZR 3 USS Los Angeles depicted on a Bermuda stamp commemorating 50th anniversary of airmail by Airship Los Angeles

The airship was commissioned into the US Navy on November 25, 1924 and became the most successful American airship,  She operated reliably for 8 years and was finally dismantled in 1940
Stamp issued by Dominica in 1978 showing LZ 1

Stamp issued by Dominica in 1978 showing LZ 2

Friday, March 19, 2010

Zeppelins upto end of World War I

The Zeppelin companies based in Friedrichshafen, Germany, numbered their aircraft LZ1, 2 ..., with LZ standing for "Luftschiff [airship] Zeppelin". Airships used for civilian purposes were usually given a name.

Military airships, on the other hand, were given "tactical numbering":
  The German Army called its first Zeppelins Z I, II ... . During World War I they switched to using the LZ numbers, later adding 30 to obscure the total production.
 The German Navy Zeppelins were labeled L 1,2 ....

 LZ11 - "Viktoria Luise" first flew on 19th February, 1912

LZ 11 transported 9783 passengers in 489 flights, traveling 54,312 km.  Was taken over by the German military after outbreak of World War and used as a training airship and renumbered LZ III.  It  broke apart while being hauled into its hangar on 1st October ,1915.

LZ 13 "Hansa" over Heligoland,  first flew on 30th July, 1912.

LZ 13 "Hansa" made 399 flights, flew 44,437 km, made the first regular flight  outside Germany, commanded by Count Zeppelin, on a  visit to Denmark and Sweden on 19 September 1912.  It was taken over by German military at outbreak of World War I and was decommissioned in summer 1916.

LZ 15 was destroyed within two months of its first flight.

LZ 16 was taken over by the military and renumbered Z IV.  It performed some reconnaissance missions during World War I and attempted bombing of Warsaw and Lyck..  Later used as a training ship from 1915

LZ 17 "Sachsen" first flew on 3rd May, 1913

LZ 13 transported 9837 passengers in 419 flights, traveled 39,919 km, It was taken over by German military at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. This was Captain Lehmann's first command; it was fitted with bomb racks and bomb drop station, together with an improved radio room, machine guns in the cars below and a gunners nest on top of the tail. In its first attack on Antwerp it carried 1,800 pounds (820 kg) of bombs and spent 12 hours in the air.  It was Decommissioned in autumn of 1916 .

8 more airships were built till the World War I broke out and were all taken over by the military.

Zeppelins were used as bombers during World War I. At the beginning of the conflict the German command had high hopes for the craft, as they appeared to have compelling advantages over contemporary aircraft – they were almost as fast, carried many more guns, and had a greater bomb-load and enormously greater range and endurance. However, their great weakness was their vulnerability to incendiary ammunition.

The German airships were operated by both the Army and Navy as two entirely separate divisions.  The Naval and Army Air Services also directed a number of strategic raids against Britain, leading the way in bombing techniques and also forcing the British to bolster their anti-aircraft defenses.  The nighttime raids were intended to target only military sites on the east coast and around the Thames estuary, but after blackouts became widespread, many bombs fell at random on East Anglia.

A total of 84 Zeppelins were built during the war. Over 60 were lost, roughly evenly divided between accident and enemy action. 51 raids had been undertaken, in which 5,806 bombs were dropped, killing 557 people and injuring 1,358 while causing damages estimated at £1.5 million. It has been argued the raids were effective far beyond material damage in diverting and hampering wartime production, and diverting 12 fighter squadrons and over 10,000 personnel to air defenses.

The German defeat in the war also marked the end of German military dirigibles, as the victorious Allies demanded a complete disarmament of German air forces and delivery of the remaining airships as reparations.

Zeppelin technology improved considerably as a result of the increasing demands of warfare. Count von Zeppelin died in 1917, before the end of the war. Dr. Hugo Eckener, a man who had long envisioned dirigibles as vessels of peace rather than of war, took command of the Zeppelin business.   The Zeppelin company and DELAG hoped to resume civilian flights quickly.

  LZ 120 "Bodensee" first flew 20th August, 1919

Two small Zeppelins were built,  LZ 120 Bodensee, which first flew in August 1919 and in the following two years actually transported some 4,000 passengers; and LZ 121 Nordstern, which was envisaged being used on a regular route to Stockholm.

However, in 1921, the Allied Powers demanded these two Zeppelins be delivered as war reparations.  This temporarily halted German Zeppelin aviation industry.

My next post will be about the  Graf Zeppelin LZ 127 the most famous airship of all time.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Continuing the LZ story

On October 16, 1909 the German Airship Travel Corporation (Deutsche Luftshiffahrt Aktien Gesellschaft, DELAG) was created, the “first airline of any kind in aviation history.”  the newly founded DELAG, bought seven Zeppelins by 1914.  LZ 6 became the first Zeppelin used for commercial passenger transport.

LZ 9 over Friedrichshafen

LZ 9 was a Military airship rechristened ZII and first flew on 2nd october 1911 and was decommissioned on 1st August 1914.

LZ 10 was named Schwaben and first flew on 26th June 1911 and was flown by DELAG.  This airship transported 4354 passengers in 224 flights, traveling 27,321 km was destroyed on 28th June, 1912 in accident on the airfield in Düsseldorf.

LZ 10 shown on a Mautitanian stamp

Friday, March 12, 2010

Story of Zeppelins contd...

LZ2 over Rothenberg

Despite its potential,  the shareholders of  Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Luftschiffahrt, the company formed by Count von Zeppelin,  declined to invest more money in the development of airships after the breaking up of LZ1.  The Count wished to continue experimenting so with the support of aviation enthusiasts his idea got a second (and third) chance to be developed into a reasonably reliable technology.

The Zeppelin LZ2 was first flown in 1906. It was the true "prototype" of the Zeppelin airship. The major mistakes made by Kübler in the design of the LZ1 were taken into account while designing the LZ 2. . The designer, Ludwig Dürr, who was to head the design of all subsequent Zeppelins, used triangular-section girders instead of Kübler's flat girders, and elevators instead of a lead weight to control pitch. The final addition was a triangular keel which became a major structural element, as well as a walkway between the gondolas, allowing access to much of the ship.

LZ3 over Wurzburg
The life of the LZ2 was brief as only two flights were made. Its immediate successor, the LZ3, first flew on 9 October 1906 and it was purchased by the German Army in 1908 and operated  until 1913.  The LZ3 made many flights and carried a number of influential passengers, including the German Crown Prince beforeits sale to the Army,.
The military administration put the LZ3 to use as the renamed Z1. Starting in 1909, Zeppelins also were used in civilian aviation. The German Aviation Association (Deutsche Luftschiffahrtsgesellschaft or DELAG) transported 37,250 people on over 1600 flights uptol 1914 without an incident. Within a few short years the zeppelin revolution began creating the age of air transportation.

           LZ 4 over hangar 

The army was also willing to buy LZ 4, but requested a demonstration of her ability to make a 24-hour trip. While attempting to fulfill this requirement, the crew of LZ 4 had to make an intermediate landing in Echterdingen near Stuttgart. During the stop, a storm tore the airship away from its anchorage in the afternoon of 5 August 1908. She crashed into a tree, caught fire, and quickly burnt out. This accident would have certainly knocked out the Zeppelin project economically had not one of the spectators in the crowd spontaneously initiated a collection of donations, yielding an impressive total of 6,096,555 Mark. This enabled the Count to found the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH (Airship Construction Zeppelin Ltd.) and a Zeppelin Foundation.

A total of 21 Zeppelin airships (LZ 5 to LZ 25) were manufactured before World War I. In 1909 LZ 6 became the first Zeppelin used for commercial passenger transport.  The airships were given names in addition to their production numbers.

LZ 7 - Deutschland
LZ 7 Deutschland made its maiden voyage on 19 June 1910. On 28 June it began a pleasure trip to make Zeppelins more popular. Among those aboard were 19 journalists, two of whom were reporters of well known British newspapers. LZ 7 crashed in bad weather at Mount Limberg near Bad Iburg in Lower Saxony, its hull getting stuck in trees. The crew then let down a ladder to allow all the passengers to leave the ship. One crew member was slightly injured on leaving the craft.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Golden Age of Airships continued....

 Before resuming the story of Zeppelins I will divert to other airship pioneers of early twentieth century.  

Stamp honoring Savero issued by Brazil in 1929

Another Brazilian who was also fascinated with the airship was Augusto Savero born in the Rio Grande region of Brazil in 1864.  He studied the non-rigid airships of Santos-Dumont and the rigid airship of Count Zeppelin and opted on designing a semi-rigid airship with light scaffolding of treliça.  His first  lighter-that-the-airship was baptized the “Bartolomeu de Gusmão” and, carried to Brazil.  However, the airship has several defects and failed to fly.  He then worked on his next airship the "PAX".  On12th May 1902  Augustus Severo took off with its mechanic, Saché.  But, at a height of 400 meters an explosion occurred and the “PAX”   fell on the avenue of the Meine killing both pilots.

The PAX on a Brazilian stamp issued in 1929

At the same time, two brothers Paul and Pierre Lebaudy, owners of a sugar refinery,  built semi-rigid airships with the assistance of their engineer Henri Julliot as designer,. Their airships were used by  the French, the Russian  and the Austrian armies.  They constructed an airship hangar at Moisson, near the River Seine downstream from Paris and developed airships in the first decade of the twentieth century.
The brothers Lebaudy & their airship can be seen on a Cuban stamp issued in 1902.

Stamp issued by St. Thomas & Prince Islands depicting the airship Le Jeune at mooring pad

Their first airship Le Jaune first flew in October 1902 and passed the test of endurance flying 98 km. in 2.75 hrs. Refitted with a new hull, the airship made 12 ascents but was carried away by a storm on Aug. 28, 1904, and badly damaged. It was repaired and  rebuilt a couple of times before being sold to the French Army for Frs.80,000 in December 1905.  The brothers built about 20 airships till 1912.
The "La Ville de Paris" was the largest airship built in 1904, being 201 feet long with a maximum diameter of 35 feet. It  was constructed by Mr. Edward Surcouf and was the property of M. Deutsch de la Meurthe. The Propelling power was a 70 h.p. Chenu motor, and a peculiarity of its construction were the eight supplementary gas envelopes fitted at the stern for purposes of steadiness.

A Bhutan stamp depicting the Ville de Paris to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Balloon Flight

A tuck's postcard showing the Ville de Paris over Bournemouth

Another pioneer of note was the German airship designer.August von Parseval (1861- 1942) .  He was interested in aeronautics and came in contact with Rudolf Hans Bartsch von Sigsfeld, with whom he developed balloons used by the military for observation. In 1901 Parseval and Sigsfeld began building a dirigible airship. However , the work was interrupted until 1905 , after Sigsfeld's death during a free balloon landing in 1902, By 1905.thanks to improvements in motor design, an appropriate engine was available. Paeseval's designs were licenced to the British Vickers company. 22 Parseval airships (both non-rigid (blimps) and semi-rigid (with keels)) were built up to the end of the First World War,. In the late twenties and early thirties, four more semi-rigid airships were built in accordance with the "Parseval-Naatz principle".

 Stamp depicting Parseval and his airship issued by Cuba in 2000

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Zeppelins - the Golden Age of Airships

 Stamp issued by Germany in 1934 showing Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin and the LZ 127

In an earlier post I had referred to David Schwarz who had built a rigid airship in 1897.  Unfortunately, he did not live to see the fruit of his experiment.  It was a partial success and he might have improved on it had he lived.   After his death, his wife, Melanie Schwarz, was paid 15,000 marks by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin for information about the airship.
David Schwarz & Count von Zeppelin shown on a Hungarian stamp issued in 1948

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, a retired German military officer,  began experimenting with rigid airship designs in the 1890s. He invented a rigid framed dirigible or airship that became known as the Zeppelin. Count Zeppelin flew the world's first untethered rigid airship, the LZ-1, on July 2, 1900, near Lake Constance, or Boden See, between Germany & Switzerland, carrying five passengers.
First Zeppelin flight shown above a boat at Lake Constance

The LZ1 was 128 metres (420 ft) long, 11.7 metres (38 ft) in diameter and weighed 13 tons and had two 15-hp Daimler internal-combustion engines, each rotating two propellers.  It was constructed using a cylindrical framework covered with smooth surfaced cotton cloth. Inside was a row of 17 gas cells each covered in rubberized cloth. The hydrogen-gas capacity totaled 11,300 cubic metres (400,000 cu ft).  Passengers and crew were carried in two 6.2 metre long aluminum gondolas suspended forward and aft.

At its first trial the LZ1 carried five persons attaining an altitude of 400 metres (1,300 ft) and flew a distance of 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) in 18 minutes, but the wind then forced an emergency landing on the water.

After repairs the ship flew two more times showing its potential, beating the speed record then held by the French Army airship, La France, of 6 metres per second (22 km/h) by 3 metres per second (11 km/h), but this could not convince the possible investors. Because funding was exhausted, Graf von Zeppelin had to dismantle the prototype.  However, he was soon working on the next model the more successful LZ2 (1906).

However, the flight of LZ1 signaled the beginning of the  "Golden Age of Airships"  and led to the most successful airships of all time: the Zeppelins. As is evident they were named after Count von Zeppelin.  The story of the Zeppelins and other airships continues in the next post.

Luftschiffs (Airships) LZ1 & LZ3  shown on a Cuban souvenir sheet issued in 2000.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Santos-Dumont and Airships

It was not until the invention of the gasoline-powered engine in 1896 that practical airships could be built. In 1898, the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first to construct and fly a gasoline-powered airship.
Arriving in Paris in 1897, Alberto Santos-Dumont first made a number of flights with free balloons. He thought of combining the De Dion engine that powered his tricycle with a balloon, which resulted in 14 small airships that were all all gasoline-powered. His No. 1 airship first flew on September 18, 1898.

 Between 1898 and 1905, he built and flew 11 dirigibles. He would glide along Paris boulevards at rooftop level in one of his airships, commonly landing in front of a fashionable outdoor cafe for lunch. On one occasion he even flew an airship early one morning to his own apartment at No. 9, Rue Washington, just off Avenue des Champs-Élysées, not far from the Arc de Triomphe.
The zenith of his lighter-than-air career came when he won the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize. The challenge called for flying from the Parc Saint Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and back in less than thirty minutes. The winner of the prize needed to maintain an average ground speed of at least 22 km/h (14 mph) to cover the round trip distance of 11 km (6.8 miles) in the allotted time.

On October 19, 1901, after several attempts, Santos Dumont succeeded in using his dirigible Number 6. Santos Dumont was awarded the prize as well as the prize money of 125,000 francs. In a charitable gesture, he donated 75,000 francs of the prize money to the poor of Paris. The balance was given to his workmen as a bonus. An additional matching 125,000 francs was voted to him along with a gold medal by the government of his native Brazil. 


 Santos Dumont's aviation feats made him a celebrity in Europe and throughout the world. The public eagerly followed his exploits. He won several more prizes and became a friend to millionaires, aviation pioneers, and royalty. In 1904, he went to the United States and was invited to the White House to meet U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.  He remains to this day, a prominent folk hero in his native Brazil.

His primary interest soon turned to heavier than air aircraft.  See my earlier post on this.