Hindenburg, Graf Zeppelin I & II
110 ton Zeppelin with 80 MPH gait, 5000 Mile journey.
An older design of Zep in 1916
Hugo Eckener – Wrote some books, which are rare out of print hard to find. In most of the Zeppelin footage he is there designing, flying and managing the airships.
Looks like the Hindenburg and the Graf Zeppelin II were the latest and last in the line of big and increasingly capable and successful long range – global passenger and freight transport airships. Unfortunately as we all know the Hindenburg (which had completed more than 60 uneventful passenger flights), met her demise while moored just two years before the start of WW2 and likewise the remaining operational and under-construction Zeppelins were ordered to be scrapped and the material appropriated for fixed-wing war aircraft, while the gigantic airship hangars at Friedrichshafen were crudely demolished. Thus proper airship development and operations were paused just before WW2, but it clearly is a wonderful concept that deserves to live on and grow. The many safe flights proved that the airship can operate well – even in the troposphere. The equivalent era airliner plane is the DC3, which evolved into the B747 and A380 by modern times. Had the Graf Zeppelin II continued to evolve in the same time, we would undoubtedly have today, airships that could adjust their pressure altitude performance envelop to the stratosphere and sail the jet streams luxuriously, speedily and with impressive economy.
The kitchen galley on the Hindenburg in 1936. Airships served five meals a day.
I think the Eckener’s airships were skillfully navigated using maritime instruments and know-how, such as the navigational sextent and seasonal trade wind charts, like sailing ships would use. These big airships would cruise low, at what looks to be 1500 to 3500 feet altitude. Apparently they could just about get to 5000 feet, but were limited by the pressure altitude the fixed volume could handle. These altitudes are thick buoyant air, but thats where all the weather is. By comparison the statosphere has little to no weather, fast jet stream winds and constant temperature. Eckener and crew had to navigate on the deck basically, dodging thunder storms , low visibility, rain and everything else – probably even cyclones.
Even in these more dangerous weather conditions, Eckener’s airships did very well, with know-how and caution they operated safely and for example in 1936 the Hindenburg operated a regular passenger schedule across the Atlantic ocean, and some longer routes to Rio, some 5000 miles in 3 days.
Like with hot air balloons, the airships could somewhat predict direction of wind by altitude and ascend to change direction or speed up and so on.
In quite a few of the video clips showing the airships arriving at a destination, often one can see the door is open and the actual chef is standing in the door as the ship floats along – yes the actual chef who make the meals in the galley on the airship. Can you imagine a chef standing in the doorway of a jet liner as it taxis up to the walkway! This airship flying is a all together different way of travel. I think its more like going on a really good train. – A train that can travel around the World. lol. Or a cruise ship, that flies.
To reiterate: Hugo Eckener and team proved at the early era of the 1920’s and 1930’s the level of achievement airships could produce. For example the Friedricshafen to Rio flights were 5000 miles and proved the concept of long distance (World-wide!) airship passenger luxury transport. This achieved with no modern technology, no materials, no radars no satellites, no nothing. Just some sailing ship trade wind charts and a lot of know-how. Wind, temperature, pressure, humidity, rain, lightening, night flying, buoyancy control – both in altitude and in the orientation of the nose and tail of the ship being kept horizontal, and so many other engineering and aeronautical problems had been overcome by those days.
A flight was $400 USD in those days, which is approximately $7300 USD today. That was a good price considering the costs involved. There was however, one stowaway. lol.
The airship video footage shows such majestic and amazing ability to float in thin air with no effort, and no power consumption. 110 tons of mass floating a few feet above a green grass field with 250 volunteer ground crew who walk along pulling the giant ship into a even more giant hangar.