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Thursday, 28 July 2011


The French engineer Henri Giffard made the first flight in a steam-powered hydrogen-filled airship known as a dirigible on September 24, 1852. He flew 17 miles (27km) from Paris to Trappes. The wind was too strong to allow him to make way against it, so he was unable to return to the start.

The Giffard dirigible, created by Giffard in 1852

Ferdinand Zeppelin’s first rigid airship, the LZ-1, made its maiden flight over Lake Constance near Friedrichshafen, Germany on July 2, 1900. The Zeppelin airship had an engine and a propeller which meant the aircraft could be directed.

LZ1, Count Zeppelin's first airship

His Majesty's Airship No. 1, was Britain's first rigid airship. When she was moved from her shed in Cavendish Dock to conduct full trials on September 24, 1911, she broke in two as a result of being subject to strong winds before her maiden flight. Although HMA never flew, her brief career provided valuable training and experimental data for British airship crews and designers

HMA No. 1 (Mayfly) in 1911 at her mooring, in England.

Italian forces became the first to use airships in war on March 6, 1912. During the Italo–Turkish War two dirigibles dropped bombs on Turkish troops and Libyan Mujahideen encamped at Janzour in Libya from an altitude of 6,000 feet.

The British airship R34 landed in Mineola, Long Island, United States on July 6, 1919 with virtually no fuel left. The flight from Britain took 108 hours. It was the first East-West crossing of the Atlantic and was achieved weeks after the first transatlantic aeroplane flight.

R34 landing at Mineola on 6 July 1919

USS Shenandoah, the United States' first American-built rigid airship, was destroyed on September 3, 1925 during its 57th flight. The airship was passing through an area of thunderstorms and turbulence over Ohio when it was caught in a violent updraft that carried it beyond the pressure limits of its gas bags. It was torn apart in the turbulence and crashed in several pieces near Caldwell, Ohio. Fourteen of her 42-man crew perished, including her commander, Zachary Lansdowne.

USS Shenandoah at NAS San Diego

The German LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin became the first commercial passenger transatlantic flight service in 1928. The hydrogen-filled airship was named after German aircraft pioneer Ferdinand von Zeppelin.

When built the British airship, R101 was the world's largest flying craft. It crashed in France on its maiden overseas voyage on October 5, 1930, killing 48 of the 54 passengers on board, a greater toll than the better known Hindenburg tragedy, seven years later.

The R101

The largest aircraft (in terms of length and volume) to take to the skies were the Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin II airships. Built in Germany between 1932 and 1938, each was 245m (803ft) long.

Despite being filled with flammable hydrogen, the Hindenburg airship had a smoking lounge on board.

The Hindenburg exploded in flames, killing 36 people, when attempting to land in New Jersey on May 6, 1937.


The world’s largest airliner, the British-built Airlander airship, is 302 feet long. A major investor in the project is Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.

Source Daily Mail 

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