Tuesday, March 3, 2015
The Fascinating World of Blimps
Blimps are airships. Airships are defined as a powered, steerable aircraft that is inflated with a gas that is lighter than air. A dirigible is same as an airship. Rigid airships, semi-rigid airships and blimps are all dirigibles. They are inflated with helium which, in the US at least, is only available from certain natural gas wells in Oklahoma and Texas.
Today, blimps are best known as advertising vehicles — Goodyear began using blimps to advertise their brand in 1925 — but blimps have also played an important role in the armed forces of many countries; the U.S. Navy’s lighter-than-air program made extensive use of blimps, primarily in anti-submarine and reconnaissance roles, from the 1920s through the 1950s.
The Hindenburg was a rigid airship that maintained its shape by means of a metal framework. It had a framework surrounding one or more individual gas cells and maintained its shape by virtue of the framework and not from the pressure of its lifting gas. A zeppelin is a rigid airship manufactured by a particular company, the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin of Germany (the “Zeppelin Airship Construction Company”), founded by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. He was considered the father of the rigid airship but not all rigid airships are “zeppelins,” just as not all photocopiers are “Xerox” machines. The term zeppelin is often associated with the German airships that conducted bombing raids during World War I, but while most of these ships were built by the Zeppelin Company the German military also used rigid airships of very different design built by the Schutte-Lanz and Parseval companies, so not all German WWI airships were zeppelins. Zeppelins still fly today and the new Goodyear airship is a NOT a blimp but a zeppelin, built by a descendant of the same company that built Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg.
A semi-rigid airship, like a blimp, maintains its shape from internal gas pressure, but it has a partial rigid frame, usually in the form of a keel, which supports and distributes loads and provides structural integrity during maneuvering.