When it comes to retrofuturism, few motifs lie closer to our hearts than the 1920s-style airship. These majestic "whales of the sky," once considered a standard feature of future skylines, had an unfortunate tendency to burst into flames or get caught in thunderstorms. Only in the imaginations of science fiction enthusiasts do they continue flourishing.
Their demise is regrettable, considering our enthusiasm for their development in the 1920s. After serving the German army in World War I, zeppelins garnered popular appeal when Hugo Eckener re-established them as vessels of peaceful air travel rather than as weapons of warfare. Although Germany continued dominating the industry, American and British manufacturers produced airships that -- for better or for worse -- changed the course of aviation.
Click to launch the photo gallery.
The decade began with a breakthrough: skyscraper mooring masts. Previously, airships were forced to make risky ground landings, which required hundreds of crewmen and an expensive hangar shed to coordinate. A mooring tower would reduce that process significantly, since airships could simply latch on to them while passengers disembarked. Someday, fleets of dirigibles would hover over American skyscrapers equipped with spires and towering terminals.
Dirigibles were poised for ubiquity. They would replace ocean liners as the luxury Transatlantic vessel of choice. They would plant pagoda-style apartments in up-and-coming neighborhoods. They would fight wars alongside battleships, and in the future would come equipped with landing fields for small aircraft.
But alas, the fires, the thunderstorms, and even ground winds injured the reputation of zeppelins beyond repair. Despite their spaciousness and serenity, dirigibles were too much of a liability for investors. At least they'll fly freely in our archives.
Click through our gallery to see more fantastic images from the golden age of zeppelins.
I love the main picture and will have to think about adding it to my Gasbags site: www.hybridblimp.net which is the worlds only lighter than air comedy web site.
Regards JB (www.hybridairship.net)
That cover picture is AWESOME!
Zeppelins are cool. People back then had some crazy ideas for what they could do...a zeppelin hotel??
Love this stuff. I had a vision recently and it was of Airships taking to the skies once more in numbers. There are so many great uses for these wonderful machines. With the newer tech and heavier-than-air hybrids being designed and built, it'll be just a couple of more years before we'll see such aircraft once again in our skies. I know I cannot wait!
Love Kirra, Airship Girl of the Future
this reminds me of crimson skies
Zeppelins are cool but the worlds helium reservs are well running short and the zeppelins are really not the best idea of travle right now. I mean we need helium for lots of scientific and industrual things. and yes i know the world does not have too much natural oil leaft either. But the thing is that we can substute burning gas with other things. Im sure we could substuite helium with another lighter than air gas that is plentiful.
Moquah-Hunter, helium is actually very abundant. In most pockets of natural gas, it is estimated that 7% of that is made up of helium. The problem is that many natural gas companies that pump the gas from the ground and then process it just let the helium go. If there was a greater need for helium and there could be if we started using airships again maybe these companies that process natural gas would capture the helium and start stocking it again.
i would have to agree with airshipgirl, i must confess, my opinion is suspect because i love airshipgirl, so anything she says ROCKS! (hope she's not a guy)
Hehehe...nope, not a guy drchuck1. :)
"Although you'd think to blame lightning for bringing down airships, the current actually passes harmlessly through the aluminum frame to the ground."
Huh? Airships are only grounded when they're connected to the ground, such as through the mooring mast. "Chassis ground" is unlikely to impress any healthy lightningbolt.