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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Zeppelin crashes in Germany - what is a non-rigid air ship

Have you heard of Cepelinai ?  I had earlier posted about ‘blimps’ – again cricket connection and IPL one at that.  Blimps were the inflated balloons used for advertising during IPL 3 in 2010 – MRF were the official blimp sponsor and were on sky at  Mumbai, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Bangalore and Cuttack.  Blimps were filled with helium and were raised up to maximum height of 300m.   This was the rigid version (see more on this : blimp – and here is something on non-rigid type.

Cepelinai is  a Lithuanian national dish - made from grated potatoes and usually stuffed with minced meat or with  cheese (curd) or mushrooms  - so named because their shape resembles that of a Zeppelin.  Today there is news of a zeppelin pilot getting killed in Germany when his aircraft exploded and plummeted to earth in a fiery crash  - before we read anything on this accident a reference to Zeppelin is considered necessary.  This German general must have been a Genius – he was also an aircraft manufacturer and did not live enough to hear the Treaty of Versailles – the peace pact signed after the WW1 in June 1919.  the pact required Germany to accept responsibility for causing the war.  

Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin [1838 – 1917] was a German general and later aircraft manufacturer. He founded the Zeppelin Airship company. He was known for his ideas; one amongst some which never saw service was the ability to connect several independent airship elements like train wagons; it was even patented as  the design Lenkbarer Luftfahrzug (steerable air train].  He is better known for the airships that even the other airships are sometimes so referred as Zeppelin even though they have no connection to his trade business.  The British R33 and R34,  reportedly are near identical copies of the German L-33. 

A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand  Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874  and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899. The idea was outlandishly popular that term zeppelin in casual use came to refer to all rigid airships. Zeppelins were operated by the Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG). DELAG, the first commercial airline, served scheduled flights before World War I. After the outbreak of war, the German military made extensive use of Zeppelins as bombers and scouts.  The defeat in WW 1 halted the business of these airships albeit temporarily.  Civilian zeppelins became popular later.  It is stated that a part of the Empire State building was originally designed to serve as a dirigible terminal for Zeppelins and other airships to dock.

The most important feature of Zeppelin's design was a rigid metal alloy skeleton, made of rings and longitudinal girders.] The advantage of this design was that the aircraft could be much larger than non-rigid airships (which relied on a slight overpressure within the single gasbag to maintain their shape). This enabled Zeppelins to lift heavier loads and be fitted with more and more powerful engines.  The larger zeppelins often carried crew or cargo internally for aerodynamic reasons.
In 1935 a German Minister formed a new airline, the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei (DZR), which took over operation of airship flights and in 1936  Hindenburg made her first flight. The Hindenburg was the largest airship ever built.   In an unfortunate air accident while landing, Hindenburg burst into flames killing 35 of 97 on board in 1937. 

Now there are reports that on 12th june 2011, a 52 year old pilot, reportedly from New South Wales was killed when a zeppelin exploded at Friedberg close to Frankfurt.  The other passesngers could escape prior to the craft being engulfed in flames.  The pilot is hailed as a hero; going by the reports that on learning the ship was on fire, Mr Nerandzic lowered the zeppelin so his passengers could jump to safety, which in turn reduced the aircraft's weight causing it to shoot upwards where it exploded in a "fireball" before crashing to earth. An investigation has been constituted to look into the crash.  The zeppelin was on a promotional flight,  carrying a photographer from Germany's Bild magazine and two RTL television journalists.

S. Sampathkumar.

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