How It Works

Zeppelin airships

1. The biggest ever airship was a massive 245m (803ft) long!

The largest airships ever were the Hindenburg class. Developed to honour the German president and war hero Paul Von Hindenburg, their huge bulk meant they were only just shorter than the RMS Titanic and longer than three Boeing 747s!

A comparison of an airship against today's jumbo jets
A comparison of an airship against today’s jumbo jets

2. They contributed to bombing raids in the First World War

The Germans constructed 95 military airships during World War One that undertook bombing raids on Britain, Belgium and France. Although initially successful, the biplanes of the Royal Flying Corps minimised their effectiveness. Subsequently, airships were developed to fly at higher altitudes to avoid detection and engagement with enemy biplanes. Despite this, the role of the zeppelin as a bomber eventually faded and they were reduced to a role on reconnaissance patrols.

765px-Hindenburg_at_lakehurst

3. There were American and British airships too

Rigid helium airships are primarily attributed as a solely German invention but the Americans and British also constructed their own versions. The USS Los Angeles for example, was given to the US as a war reparation while the R101 was a British rigid airship.

4. They work using helium or hydrogen
The Zeppelin’s favoured hydrogen power while their American equivalents were reliant on helium. The interior of a zeppelin was structured by large ring of metal girders and was filled to the broom with hydrogen. The gas is lighter than air, which made the airship fly. The airship was propelled by a specially devised ‘blau gas’. A similar weight to air, its consumption did not affect the the ship’s balance so it was ideal.

Inside the Graf Zeppelin
Inside the Graf Zeppelin

5. The Hindenburg disaster all but ended the airship era

The Hindenburg disaster on 6 May 1937 effectively needed air travel in a 30 second window when the hulking beast and its seven million cubic feet of hydrogen burst into flames. Remarkably only 36 of the 97 passengers died in the disaster.

Did you know?
A blimp is not considered a type of rigid airship as it has no internal structure.