Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mighty Airships Of The 20th Century

Airships fall into two categories - rigid and non-rigid. The non-rigid, also known as blimps, have no internal supporting framework and depend on the strength of the envelope and pressure of the lifting gas. The only solid part of these is the gondola and tail fin. Rigid airships have an internal supporting skeleton. Both types are steered with rudder mechanisms and have engines attached to their gondolas which drive propellers. They are able to stay aloft because the lifting gas, usually helium, is denser than the surrounding air.

Hot air balloons were an early form of airship. A Portugese Jesuit priest was the first to achieve a lift off of sorts in a crude contraption in 1709. Fascination with flight prompted further innovation and led to what is considered the Golden Age of Airships, in 1901. Airships were the first objects to achieve controlled, powered flight, and were used widely across the globe until winged aircraft surpassed their abilities. Their use faded further due to the catastrophic crashes of the USS Akron in 1933 and the Hindenburg in 1937.

Currently, the iconic Goodyear blimps are used primarily for photography at sporting events and similar blimps are used for advertising.

The first phtograph shows the USS Akron over Manhattan Island, New York City, circa 1932. At 785 feet, it was one of the largest flying objects in the world. The second picture shows a United States Navy airship landing on an aircraft carrier during World War II.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

beautiful photos on your blog.
Oh, look at all those piers we once had! Gone!
Everything is trucked in now. Very foolish, as particularly NYC is so well served by many waterways.