Why did so many airship projects fail?

A place to generally discuss airships and anything related to LTA-aviation.
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AvA
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Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby AvA » Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:11 am

If I read the history of airships the last 50 years there have been many attempts at ''reviving it'' , but many projects ended up as financial catastrophes, bankruptcies and net losses, why was this the case?

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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby flyhigh » Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:38 am

I would say because of a combination of the following things:

-Dependancy on government subsidy (if they pull the plug, it's over.)
-Lack of permits and too many regulations withholding flying.
-Overengineering.
-Thinking too big, too quick.

But you shouldn't forget a lot of airplane projects also failed during the last 50 years, there are just a lot more airplane projects so it's less 'visibible'.
blimps don't crash, they sink.
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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby AvA » Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:17 pm

flyhigh wrote:I would say because of a combination of the following things:

-Dependancy on government subsidy (if they pull the plug, it's over.)
-Lack of permits and too many regulations withholding flying.
-Overengineering.
-Thinking too big, too quick.

But you shouldn't forget a lot of airplane projects also failed during the last 50 years, there are just a lot more airplane projects so it's less 'visibible'.


Interesting, could you elaborate the ''overengineering'' thing?
Thanks for your reply.

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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby turtleairships » Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:37 pm

FlyHigh has nailed several of the main reasons. Reaching to far, too soon, is a major reason, as he indicated.

I am currently writing of my own involvement in the airship field over 36 years; during that time, I have listed in my writings over 60 different airship businesses/designs that have failed.

As I have tried to interest potential investors/partners for Turtle Airships; one of the first questions that always comes up is "Is there a market for this?" The simple answer is NO....but that is something like saying that there was no market for personal computers before about 1978. People had to be introduced to the idea first...then it took over the world.

A properly designed and operated airship will do the same thing. Unfortunately, even if a proper airship design is brought forth, it takes a huge investment to bring it about; especially since the larger the craft is, the better....which means more money. This is why "subsidies" in the form of government or military funding has always been involved. And, as HighFly points out, those may be pulled too soon.

With all that above, there is still an overriding problem....... the " proper airship design" part.

As long as lighter-than-air craft are built like giant elongated balloons, or like giant Chinese lanterns; they cannot succeed in business. There are too many costs involved....such as needing giant hangars, or maintaining ground crews, being dependent on few suppliers of high-tech envelope materials; or even being dependent upon reliable helium supplies. Tell a potential investor that he not only needs to fund the building of an airship; but needs to build a giant hangar too.......and have more anywhere he intends to fly the airship; and the money is quickly lost. Tell a potential customer that wants to buy airships that he must wait months at a time, because you can only build one-airship-at-a-time in the one hangar you have to work with....and that customer gets mighty anxious and withdraws his order.

take a customer on a flight, and when he lands somewhere out of the ordinary, tell him that he cannot because there is no mooring mast and ground crew waiting below.....and he will cancel his purchase order (true story!)

Bottom line: airships need to be strong. Robust. All weather craft. Independent of hangars, either for construction or for storage between flights. airships should be able to hover (got that), fly slowly ( got that) and fly reasonably fast (that is still wanting).
Would be airship business should build smaller first, use the smaller ships in some manner to generate revenue....and then turn that revenue into larger airships. Trying to eat the whole elephant at one bite is doomed to failure.....

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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby AvA » Thu Jun 23, 2016 4:05 pm

I think I can agree on you with that airship engineering and improvement ought to continue.
The uncertainty regarding everything related to airships seems to be a large factor too then.

So what do we need:
a smaller government with less restrictions, subsidies, permits and regulations, even allowing hydrogen gas
or,
a larger government with the right people that increase funding and subsidies for airship development

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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby turtleairships » Thu Jun 23, 2016 5:41 pm

Neither. Or, either. take your pick. "either" would be good, but neither is likely.

Neither is the only real answer that will stand up. No matter what airship ideas come forth....the biggest reason why they cannot progress lies in the first question everyone out there asks:

What do I need airships for?

FlyHigh has written a few times already, the real reason why there are not more and more airships........is because airplanes and helicopters are doing just fine. so, Who needs airships?

The future. When fuel becomes a problem; or, when enough noise is made about carbon emissions of airplanes. Alas, it is all too apparent that the future is going to have to hit people over the head before they start to prepare for it. we should be moving to create decent airships now, instead of waiting until it is a virtual emergency in the air transport industry to create them.

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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby flyhigh » Thu Jun 23, 2016 8:52 pm

turtleairships wrote:Neither. Or, either. take your pick. "either" would be good, but neither is likely.

Neither is the only real answer that will stand up. No matter what airship ideas come forth....the biggest reason why they cannot progress lies in the first question everyone out there asks:

What do I need airships for?

FlyHigh has written a few times already, the real reason why there are not more and more airships........is because airplanes and helicopters are doing just fine. so, Who needs airships?

The future. When fuel becomes a problem; or, when enough noise is made about carbon emissions of airplanes. Alas, it is all too apparent that the future is going to have to hit people over the head before they start to prepare for it. we should be moving to create decent airships now, instead of waiting until it is a virtual emergency in the air transport industry to create them.


Well, I believe that the current airship industry is not that bad off at all, it could've been much worse. It's not that long ago since the ZLT Zeppelin company was brought back and started producing their NTs. There are also a lot other blimps doing just fine for what they are made for. The only thing I advocate for is more public interest in lighter then air aviation- and that includes everything, gas ballooning, rigids, blimps, personal blimps, so that hopefully hydrogen for use can be legalized. I'd love to own a small blimp if I could fill it with hydrogen, and if the price was similar to regular starter aircraft (and they can be made for that price if there wasn't that much over-engineering, super high standards and permits for every damn thing). We could see a lot more blimps if hydrogen was allowed and these could be used for all kinds of things. In all honesty, I think rigid, giant airships are very interesting and cool but they hit much 'farther from home' then small blimps to me, since there's very little chance I'll ever get to fly on a Graf-like Zeppelin, but there's still a chance I get to own and fly a personal blimp one day, when or if the market becomes freer. Business wise I do see possibilities for passenger airships that can carry 30-50 people, but I must admit that's also far from reality at the moment unless you have the financial capabilities to start something.
sorry to go offtopic guys, I'm rambling again.
blimps don't crash, they sink.
~don't tread on me~

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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby flyhigh » Thu Jun 23, 2016 9:19 pm

AvA wrote:
flyhigh wrote:I would say because of a combination of the following things:

-Dependancy on government subsidy (if they pull the plug, it's over.)
-Lack of permits and too many regulations withholding flying.
-Overengineering.
-Thinking too big, too quick.

But you shouldn't forget a lot of airplane projects also failed during the last 50 years, there are just a lot more airplane projects so it's less 'visibible'.


Interesting, could you elaborate the ''overengineering'' thing?
Thanks for your reply.


Well it's combination of using very expensive materials combined with having absurd high safety standards, restricting flight for only when all conditions are perfect and thus restricting it to a life of novelty. Over-engineering isn't necessarily wrong, but if it makes it too expensive then it's a bad thing. I mean, where has our sense of adventure and taking risks gone? If were going to have to make everything in life squishy and comfy without risk then I dread the future.

And to reply to your other post, I'm an advocate of limited government - and with that would come the freedom to use hydrogen -
Sadly the new generations tend to want to more and more government in their lives, but that's another issue.
blimps don't crash, they sink.
~don't tread on me~

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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby AvA » Fri Jun 24, 2016 1:40 pm

Thanks for the replies. I don't mind if you go off topic.
Your perspective seems interesting. I agree that blimps should be allowed to use hydrogen. I think that if they used hydrogen for flying for a few decades, it would prove that its safe enough. That would give a boom to the industry I think.
So they basically use too expensive materials and I guess that includes helium then? I believe that Goodyear or Zeppelin doesn't want to use hydrogen in 12 million dollar airships like NT, plus they don't fly it all that often do they? An accident would be very bad for their company, since it's primarily used for advertising. But if there is a cheaper airship or blimp that uses hydrogen you can fly a lot more and build more too then, and not just for advertising. Seems logical enough.

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Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby turtleairships » Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:59 pm

@ AvA re: "overengineer"

certainly one desires good and thorough engineering; else something like R-101 will come along......

However, here are two examples of engineering gone wrong, instead of simply using tried and true, simpler things:

One: the idea of compressing helium (beyond that which is now accomplished via use of ballonets). There is a growing trend in some design proposals to compress a large amount of helium inside an airship to make it "heavier". This is evident in the Aeroscraft designs, and Varialift, among others. Compressing enough helium then requires more machinery, storage tanks, etc. all of which add weight and costs and complexity. It is also simply bad engineering; witness.....the designer of the Aeroscraft admits that if all the helium in the Aeroscraft is compressed, it only makes about 1,600 kilograms difference in the weight of the craft....and that IS NOT ENOUGH to withstand many wind pressures when on the surface. "compressing" helium is a wrong, "overengineered" idea.

Two: the idea of using some sort of "hovercraft" system for landing and stability on the ground; another popular proposal for some designs. It flies in the face of reason: the only way a hovercraft works is because air is blown out from under a skirt with just enough force to hold a HEAVY object off of the surface. The air pushes it up, the WEIGHT of the craft holds it down.
But......to use this in a LIGHTER-THAN-AIR craft? nonsense. the only way that this system can work at all, is if the craft is heavy.......which negates the advantages of LTA. such craft ( Airlander, SkyCat, LMH-1) are properly called "hybrids" rather than "airships"
The hovercraft system is supposed to keep the craft on the ground without using ballast; by "sucking" it down onto the surface. Doing so will inevitably draw objects....sticks, stones, etc. into the engines. the results are obvious........

there are other "overengineered" design ideas; the two above are the most common.

what about things that are being UNDERengineered, yet? or well?

Here is one: we all acknowledge that hydrogen is a superior lifting gas, and more available, at less cost. and we all know that regulations are holding hydrogen airships back......
But who (besides Turtle Airships ) is actually focusing on using flammable gasses?
Here is what is lacking: we now have materials that CANNOT BURN, which can be used to build absolutely fireproof airships. and yet......virtually no one is active in engineering new airships that use these materials, and which would open up the world to inexpensive, readily available lighter-than-air air transport....


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