Zeppelin airship, LZ 17 Sachsen (1913)

Zeppelin airship, LZ 17 Sachsen (1913)

A Zeppelin is a type of controllable, rigid airship.



airship, Zeppelin, Sachsen, aviation, passenger transport, hydrogen gas, rudder, elevator, cabin, engine nacelle, balloon, civil, military, commercial, technology

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History of the Zeppelin

A Zeppelin is a manoeuvrable, rigid-framed airship. It was named after the designer, the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. His first airship took off in 1900.
The new construction became popular before World War I. It was mainly used for commercial purposes (passenger transport, postal delivery service). Later military Zeppelins appeared as well (bombing, reconnaissance).
Civilian Zeppelins had their heyday after World War I. The enormous German Zeppelins of the 1930s (Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg) could easily cross oceans.
The Hindenburg disaster in New Jersey in 1937 marked the end of the era of the airships. Zeppelins were reinvented in the 1990s, but today they are mainly used for scientific research purposes and luxury trips.

Ferdinand von Zeppelin

Top view

Shape and characteristics

The shape of the first Zeppelins was a long cylinder with tapered ends and multi-planed fins.
The typical teardrop shape with cruciform fins was developed during World War I by the engineers at the Schütte-Lanz Luftschiffbau company.
A relatively small compartment for passengers and crew was built into the bottom of the frame, but they often carried crew or cargo in the back of the hull (internally) for aerodynamic reasons. A gondola extended from the front part of the hull, used by the crew to manoeuvre the airship, control the engines, and for communication.
The most important features of Zeppelins were the excellent manoeuvrability, large payload capacity and long range. Zeppelins in the 1920s and 1930s were 200-250 m long and measured about 100 thousand m³ in volume, with a useful payload capacity of 50-60 tons and a service ceiling of 7,000-8,000 m. Their range reached 10 thousand kilometres.


  • hull
  • envelope
  • rudder
  • elevator fin
  • cabins
  • engine nacelles
  • gondola

Construction and propulsion

The most important structural feature was the rigid metal framework consisting of longitudinal girders and rings. This made it possible for the Zeppelins to carry more payload and incorporate additional stronger engines than in the former, non-rigid type of airships.
The framework contained several separate bags (cells) filled with hydrogen gas. Gas pressure valves played an important role in safety, by removing excess hydrogen. Later helium was used instead of hydrogen, as it was safer.
Zeppelins were powered by at least four 260 hp engines (e. g. four 195 kW Maybach engines). The maximum speed of Zeppelins reached 130 km/h.

Hindenburg disaster


  • gas bags
  • framework
  • wire supports

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