Why did so many airship projects fail?

A place to generally discuss airships and anything related to LTA-aviation.
yama
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:47 pm
Gender: None specified

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby yama » Wed Aug 31, 2016 10:26 pm

flyhigh wrote:
pyronaught wrote:I agree the Bodensee was a very elegant and successful airship that doesn't get much mention in the history books. Personally it is my favorite airship and I think it is an ideal size for just carrying people around on joy rides.

Keep in mind that there are actually two versions of the Bodensee, as it was later lengthened and sometimes you see stats for the original smaller size. The final volume was 20K cubic meters .


Yep and I used the 20k m^3 number as a comparison the the 38k m^3 of the Airlander.
The Nordstern is another underrated beauty.


German Wiki claims that Bodensee's final configuration had volume of 22 550 m^3, same as Nordstern.

Maybe one explanation for seemingly light weight of LZ-120 class is that structure-wise, those old Zeppelins perhaps wouldn't meet modern standards for airworthiness? Brits and Americans seemed to be unhappy with traditional Zeppelin structure.
(Though, at least with heavier-than-aircraft, German structural safety margins apparently exceeded American standards).

But yeah, I also like Bodensee design. However it appears to have been purpose-built for short range, inter-city air travel. That didn't require great fuel load, or double crew or provisions to them. Aircraft would have made it quickly obsolete in that role. That said, I also believe that modern airship designers should primarily aim to craft of that class, instead of envisioning gigantic transoceanic monsters which never see light of day.
Last edited by yama on Tue Sep 27, 2016 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
flyhigh
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:04 pm
Gender: None specified
Flag: United States of America

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby flyhigh » Thu Sep 01, 2016 1:03 pm

@yama You are right. Wiki is not always correct and the German one is most likely more accurate than the English version. Still the point remains

No Zeppelin or airship made before the 1940s would pass modern standards for airworthiness.

Maybe the envelope of the Airlander weights a whole lot more. I don't know how much the dope they used to paint the outer skin of the old Zeppelins contributed to the weight.

The frames they use in the Zeppelin NT weighs less than those used in the Hindenburg.

The USS Akron and Macon sacrificed a whole lot of extra payload for a stronger frame but sadly both did not have a long life. The British R101 broke up and crashed on its maiden voyage. I don't think the Brits or the US had much room to criticize German structural designs after those catastrophes.

I think that the most important thing for a safe flight with airships is a good Captain. Under Eckener, who was a genius and knew his ships and their capabilities completely, Zeppelins flourished. Other Captains were often more reckless and sometimes overestimated the capabilities of their airships, with disastrous results.

Here is a modern Zeppelin design with a similar size of the LZ120:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=410
I think this is the best attempt, design and market for a modern revival of Zeppelin tourism. I too think that envisioning gigantic transatlantic airships is unrealistic at present time.
blimps don't crash, they sink.
~don't tread on me~

pyronaught
Posts: 133
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:04 am
Gender: Male
Flag: United States of America

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby pyronaught » Fri Sep 02, 2016 3:50 am

The Akron and Macon technically were German structural designs. A break-away group of engineers from the Zeppelin corp went to America and implemented some really good ideas that they were not able to get implemented in the Zeppelin corp (maybe too radical compared with what was already being used). As a result, the Akron and Macon had the strongest structural design of all the airships ever built, and I would think the stamped girders should have also been faster to produce. It is unfortunate they also didn't have German pilots like Eckener who could read weather better and not fly them into storms.

yama
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:47 pm
Gender: None specified

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby yama » Fri Sep 02, 2016 8:05 am

flyhigh wrote:I think that the most important thing for a safe flight with airships is a good Captain. Under Eckener, who was a genius and knew his ships and their capabilities completely, Zeppelins flourished. Other Captains were often more reckless and sometimes overestimated the capabilities of their airships, with disastrous results.


I wonder if this would have been one of the stumbling blocks for Zeppelin air travel even without Hindenburg disaster. Germans had very experienced crew and were quite successful, but could they have built up a larger cadre of capable Zeppelin captains? Germans didn't even have Zeppelin flight manual - it was all in their heads.

Record of other rigid operators is of course very sad.

Nowadays this would be much less of a problem, obviously. Recently I watched videos of operating old Goodyear blimp and their new NT. I didn't even know those GZ-20's are so old-fashioned. NT flies more like a helicopter, requires much less personnel and has less risk factors.

flyhigh wrote:Here is a modern Zeppelin design with a similar size of the LZ120:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=410
I think this is the best attempt, design and market for a modern revival of Zeppelin tourism. I too think that envisioning gigantic transatlantic airships is unrealistic at present time.


I like that project in all other respects except one - it's in Europe. Building up airship infrastructure in Europe would be astronomically expensive.
There are no more oceanic liners (well there might be one or two) but passenger ship is far from extinct. They moved to cruise business and that's where airships should head too. Places like Mediterranean, Caribbean, Baltic etc. Basically, scheme would be similar to cruise ships, except that all that partying, swimming, shopping would be done at the resort instead of ship itself. There is no shortage of existing resorts and building up hangars, masts and crews would be far cheaper in places like Cuba and Hispaniola than in Germany.
Advertising would be probably more productive in Europe, but that's about it.

Sean
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:07 am
Gender: None specified
Flag: United States of America

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby Sean » Fri Sep 02, 2016 4:18 pm

@yama The Goodyear GZ-20 is almost 50 years old. The Zeppelin NT just over 20 and it's indeed safer and better in many aspects. One thing that's really cool about the NT is the ability to hover in one place, all due to its great vectoring engines.

I remember reading a post on this forum about an email sent to the Zeppelin company, in which one their people said how much it would cost to construct a modern, helium-filled Hindenburg. The costs would be in the billions.

Edit: here it is for those who are interested,
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=243&p=1858#p1858

Furthermore:

I like that project in all other respects except one - it's in Europe. Building up airship infrastructure in Europe would be astronomically expensive.


They probably prefer Central and Western Europe because of all the famous historical and cultural cities and monuments there. A Zeppelin tour over London, Amsterdam, Paris, Strasbourg, Berlin, etc, would attract a lot of tourists. Other places are maybe not as popular and well known among tourists, or offer as much historical sightseeing.

I don't think that building infrastructure in places other than Europe is going to be much cheaper.
They would have to relocate their headquarters, materials and all the Zeppelin engineers in Friedrichshafen to another part of the world, while in Europe they can simply build upon their existing infrastructure. If they would move their Zeppelins to some 3rd world place they would have to dismantle everything and ship it somewhere else to rebuild it all again. It would also be rather tragic to see the Zeppelin company operate from somewhere else other than Germany. The history of the company is tied to that soil, and that city Friedrichshafen. I don't believe the Zeppelin company would consider it for those historical reasons alone.

pyronaught
Posts: 133
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:04 am
Gender: Male
Flag: United States of America

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby pyronaught » Fri Sep 02, 2016 8:42 pm

I question the authenticity of that letter claiming the cost in billions. It would not take anywhere near that much money, even when doing it in Europe, and the NT guys would not have quoted something that outrageous unless it was just an exaggerated number just to indicate that it would be very expensive.

yama
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:47 pm
Gender: None specified

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby yama » Fri Sep 02, 2016 9:55 pm

Sean wrote:@yama The Goodyear GZ-20 is almost 50 years old. The Zeppelin NT just over 20 and it's indeed safer and better in many aspects. One thing that's really cool about the NT is the ability to hover in one place, all due to its great vectoring engines.


Oh, I know the design is old, I just used to think that Goodyear blimps were actually built in the '60s and they were last leftovers from that era. When I found out they had been built in 2000s (making them newer than some NT's), I kinda expected them to be bit more up-to-date too...

Sean wrote:I don't think that building infrastructure in places other than Europe is going to be much cheaper.
They would have to relocate their headquarters, materials and all the Zeppelin engineers in Friedrichshafen to another part of the world, while in Europe they can simply build upon their existing infrastructure. If they would move their Zeppelins to some 3rd world place they would have to dismantle everything and ship it somewhere else to rebuild it all again. It would also be rather tragic to see the Zeppelin company operate from somewhere else other than Germany. The history of the company is tied to that soil, and that city Friedrichshafen. I don't believe the Zeppelin company would consider it for those historical reasons alone.


I don't suggest ZLT should operate airships on some other continent, what I suggest that they sell such ships to cruise companies who presumably have knowledge and contacts on the region. After all, Boeing does not operate the aircraft they build, nor does STX operate cruise ships they build. Europe has expensive workforce, congested airspace and most airfields are already squeezed to the maximum capacity and getting more room for Zeppelin operations would be painful. When NT SN02 was stranded on Malmi, Helsinki, it blocked one of the runways for months, earning the ire of pilots operating from the airfield - but there was just no other place to put it.

NT07 is undoubtely great craft for such use as Goodyear has, but IMO it's too small for reliable revenue earner, even for joyrides. They themselves said that NT14 would be more economical, which is why I'm puzzled why we haven't seen it yet. Also NT14 would be better for most science missions, when I read about Zeppelin scientific operations it seems they always struggle with 07's payload capacity.

Sean
Posts: 114
Joined: Thu Jul 21, 2016 10:07 am
Gender: None specified
Flag: United States of America

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby Sean » Fri Sep 02, 2016 10:28 pm

yama wrote:I don't suggest ZLT should operate airships on some other continent, what I suggest that they sell such ships to cruise companies who presumably have knowledge and contacts on the region. After all, Boeing does not operate the aircraft they build, nor does STX operate cruise ships they build. Europe has expensive workforce, congested airspace and most airfields are already squeezed to the maximum capacity and getting more room for Zeppelin operations would be painful. When NT SN02 was stranded on Malmi, Helsinki, it blocked one of the runways for months, earning the ire of pilots operating from the airfield - but there was just no other place to put it.


Thanks for the elaboration.
You have more understanding of European airspace than I do. I'm just an old nut who forgot airspace is so congested these days. But airships fly at few hundred meters high, far below most aircraft. Shouldn't that help a lot? But I get your point.

yama wrote:NT07 is undoubtely great craft for such use as Goodyear has, but IMO it's too small for reliable revenue earner, even for joyrides. They themselves said that NT14 would be more economical, which is why I'm puzzled why we haven't seen it yet. Also NT14 would be better for most science missions, when I read about Zeppelin scientific operations it seems they always struggle with 07's payload capacity.


Oh I agree with you on that. The NT 14 would be a good next step. It was supposed to be ready somewhere in 2008 already. I don't know why it never took off, my guess is simply a lack of money to continue the project, or a lack of clients who'd be interested in buying one.

yama
Posts: 32
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:47 pm
Gender: None specified

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby yama » Fri Sep 02, 2016 10:55 pm

Sean wrote:You have more understanding of European airspace than I do. I'm just an old nut who forgot airspace is so congested these days. But airships fly at few hundred meters altitude, far below most aircraft. Shouldn't that help a lot?


There is always room in the air, but airfields are another matter. Especially as airships are so weather-dependent, I'd imagine they might be sometimes disruptive to extremely tightly-run major European airports.

Apparently one reason why Japanese Zeppelin sightseeing enterprise folded was that they were forced to operate from quite remote airfield far from Tokyo and it was simply difficult to attract passengers there.

Sean wrote:Oh I agree with you on that. The NT 14 would be a good next step. It was supposed to be ready somewhere in 2008 already. I don't know why it never took off, my guess is simply a lack of money to continue the project, or a lack of clients who'd be interested in buying one.


I dug around and German Wiki has some info on the matter. I don't know much German but Google translate is getting quite good nowadays. There seems to have been some internal dispute within the company, whether they should go straight to bigger, LZ-120 sized craft capable of carrying 30 to 45 passengers (as envisioned in Zeppelin Europe Tours scheme), or more modest upgrade to present NT07. Former would have required development costs in the 350 million euros ballpark so NT14 design won out as it was fairly simple enlargement to NT07.

However, when SN01 was leased to DeBeers they wanted a replacement airship quick so it was decided to delay NT14 in favour of fourth NT07. Then it was proposed that NT07 could be slightly enlarged to carry 14 passengers and they seem to have been dragging their feet which route to go, when Goodyear order arrived and they were suddenly busy again. Complete with rebuilding SN02 and -04, I presume that their construction capacity has been more or less fully occupied of late. For Goodyear, NT07 is perfectly adequate.

If someone has good grasp of German, feel free to correct any mistakes in my interpretations...

pyronaught
Posts: 133
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:04 am
Gender: Male
Flag: United States of America

Re: Why did so many airship projects fail?

Postby pyronaught » Sat Sep 03, 2016 4:16 pm

There was an NT tourism operation in the San Francisco area for a while a few years back, but it too folded. I would have thought that location would have the best chance for success-- they had a giant privately owned air field to park the airship on, the majority of the local population are high earners with more disposable income to spend on joy rides, it was a tourist location and there are lots of sights that would be great to view from an airship such as the golden gate bridge, the city skyline, the bay and all the hills and valleys. But yet the operation only lasted a brief time. I think the thing that killed it was the high operational costs of the NT. This is true of all blimps in general because they all leak helium continuously due to being under pressure, but the NT is even worse than the average blimp on helium loss. This could be due to all the through-points on the envelope where external entities must pass through the envelope to attach to the internal frame. Each one of those through-points is no doubt very difficult to perfectly seal around.

Rigids have an advantage in that nothing passes through the internal gas bags, and also those bags are not under pressure so the rate of gas loss is much less. The up-front cost of building them is much higher of course, but they would also allow the most appealing passenger accommodations. Being stuck in a small gondola doesn't offer an experience that is much different from an airplane other than having larger windows. But having a larger internal space like a dining room with big bay windows on each side is something nobody can experience in the air anywhere else so it has more draw. Getting away from that boxed-in feeling associated with aircraft would be a big advantage. Give people the spatial freedom of a ship with the view of an aircraft.


Return to “General Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest