aviation comes of age

the dirigible
the great airships


Ferdinand von Zeppelin
Zeppelin passenger ships
Zeppelin posters
Hindenburg disaster

HMA 1 Mayfly
HMA 23
R 31
R 32
R 33
R 34
R 36
R 38
R 80
R 100
The R101 airship disaster

USS Los Angeles
the Akron
the Macon


Zeppelin passenger ships

In 1949, Pan American and Imperial Airlines initiated transatlantic passenger flights.

In 1957, Pan American began non-stop passenger flights between New York and London.

But in 1929, the LZ127 "Graf Zeppelin" flew around the world!

In the mid-1930s, when airplanes were lucky to fly a few hundred miles, the Zeppelins flew regularly scheduled transatlantic passenger service between Friedrichshafen, Germany and Lakehurst, New Jersey in the US. They also flew 6,852 statute miles, carrying up to 91 people, on flights between Friedrichshafen, Germany and Rio de Janero, Brazil!

In 1908, Count Zeppelin established
Zeppelinstitung zur Foerderung der Luftfahrt
(Zeppelin Endowment for the Propogation of Air Navigation)
as the exclusive shareholder of the
Luftschiffbau-Zeppelin, Gmb. H.
(Zeppelin Airship Building Co., Ltd.)
the construction firm which built the airships operated by
Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-A.-G. ---> DELAG
(German Airship Transportation Company)
the airship passenger and mail service. These were giants such as the world had never seen before ... or since. 


LZ 7 Deutschland


19,300 cubic metres

three 120 hp engines

LZ 10 Schwaben


250 flights without a single accident

"Yes, there's no help for it; the ship does do 20 metres per second."
Herr von Parseval, quoted in Hugo Eckener's "Count Zeppelin: The Man and His Work", page 269.


LZ 11 Viktoria Luise


LZ 13 Hansa


LZ 17 Sachsen


LZ 120 Bodensee



LZ 121 Nordstern


LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin

LZ 127

1928-1937 (dismantled 1940)

Perhaps the most successful passenger airship of all time, logging in over a million miles during its life -- including the first round-the-world flight in 1929! It inaugurated aerial transatlantic passenger service.

LZ 129 Hindenburg


Entered the transatlantic service, flying to both Brazil and the United States. It was designed to fly using helium. When the Zeppelin Company could not obtain a supply, it flew using hydrogen.

LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II
LZ 130

1939-1940 (dismantled 1940)

LZ130 was to be an "improved sister" of the LZ129 HINDENBURG, which, "as completed" carried 50 passengers and 45-50 crew members.

Taking advantage of hydrogen inflation in a large ship originally designed to be inflated with slightly heavier but non-flammable HELIUM gas, the Zeppelin people added nine more cabins to the HINDENBURG in early 1937, bringing her capacity up to 72 passengers. It was envisioned that LZ130 would carry 80-100 passengers, with a slight increase in the on-board service or "hotel" staff.

After the Lakehurst disaster, LZ130 was modified in construction for helium inflation and an assigned passenger capacity of 40 (though the reconstituted passenger cabins were roomier, had better lighting and four "luxury cabins" featured windows.) Other modifications included the fitting of "water recovery" units to condense water from fuel burned and help the ship maintain equilibrium without valving the expensive helium; also, as Rick Archbold points out, "heavy beer bottles were OUT " and were replaced with keg beer, one of the many weight saving measures necessitated by using helium.

The Zeppelin would still have had tremendous reserve lifting capacity for crossing oceans and making long flights; however, increasing international tensions made the American government change its mind about supplying helium to the Germans and the LZ130 (named GRAF ZEPPELIN II ) flew using hydrogen between 14 September, 1938 and 22 August, 1939. Under the circumstances, the German Air Ministry refused to allow paying passengers to be carried (though the ship's accommodations were much appreciated by special and VIP guests who were always aboard.) The airship was also generally forbidden to fly over "foreign" soil, though she did make a propaganda cruise over the soon-to-be-annexed Sudetenland and also several radar "spy flights" around England carrying electronic detection gear.

Plans for an LZ131, with an extra bay and carrying 100 passengers, were never far advanced. LZ130 was laid up in Hangar #2 at Rhein-Main Airfield, Frankfurt, with the outbreak of World War Two. Together with the original GRAF ZEPPELIN, the LZ127, the last and finest big rigid airship ever built was cut up for scrap in March 1940. Two months later, on 6 May, (the third anniversary of the HINDENBURG disaster) the expensive, new Zeppelin hangars at Frankfurt were levelled with dynamite on the excuse that they were a navigational hazard for military planes using the field.

The Zeppelin Company's hangars at Friedrichshafen and nearby Lowenthal were used for a variety of military production projects during the War and were considered legitimate military targets by Allied air forces; heavily damaged by increasing air raids in 1944, the big sheds were completely destroyed in a series of violent air raids in early 1945, along with a good section of "old Friedrichshafen" to the extent that much of the place was unrecognizable to pre-war visitors who came to see the place years later.