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The Zeppelin NT Semi-rigid Airship

written by: Elizabeth Engel•edited by: Jason C. Chavis•updated: 4/26/2011

Interesting information about the Zeppelin NT Semi-rigid Airship, manufactured by Neue Technologie. Although typically built for commercial purposes, the zeppelin airships also have their own historical importance.

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    History of the Zeppelin

    USS Shenandoah The company that makes the Zeppelin NT, Neue Technologie, first started making such airships more popularly known as blimps, in the 1930’s. They were designed as a rigid airship and patented as a design in the United States as early as 1899. They were designed for commercial flying and scheduled flights were made in the time before World War I. They saw military use as bombers and scouts during the war and though its production was halted after Germany’s defeat, it saw a revival in the 1930’s when transatlantic flights began operation from Europe to Brazil and the United States.

    These rigid airships were made of a latticework of aluminum and metal frames and a number of bags containing either hydrogen or helium gas. They were powered by gas engines and as the fuel was the same density as air, use of this fuel did not in any way affect the balance of the airship.

    The Hindenburg airship disaster in 1937 put a halt to the development of the Zeppelin and saw its almost complete halt with World War II.

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    What is the Zeppelin NT?

    The Zeppelin NT is a semi-rigid airship that is almost 250 feet (76.2 meters) long and can remain airborne because it is filled with helium, which is lighter than normal air. The company who makes the Zeppelin NT is considered a successor to the earlier group of Zeppelin companies that made the blimp.

    The new technology developed by the company lists the airship as semi-rigid. The framework built with aluminum and lightweight carbon fiber. This framework also carries the cabin, engines, and a tail assembly that is vital for maneuvering the airship. The high-tech nature of its framework construction leads to its weight being limited to just a ton (roughly 1,000 kilograms) even though its length rivals the length of a Boeing 747 airliner.

    The helium gas, over 10,400 cubic yards (roughly 8000 cubic meters) of it, is contained in an envelope that is made of very strong and high strength multi-layer laminates. The engines on the Zeppelin NT are four cylinder gasoline powered engines. Zeppelin company has preferred to use engines that have proved their reliability by decades of use in the aircraft industry, especially by smaller planes. The airship has four propellers, three of which can swivel up to 120 degrees, greatly adding to the airship's maneuverability.

    The airship does not require runways and can take of in a vertical fashion and can even be maneuvered to go backwards. Speed is generally limited to about 37 mph (60 kph) although it can achieve speeds upwards to 78 mph (125 kph). This is because the airships main use at present is in sightseeing and generally used by tourists and not passengers seeking to travel long distances quickly. Currently the airship only seats 12 persons besides the crew but a larger version is planned, which will allow almost 20 passengers at a time.

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    Will the Zeppelin NT be a Winner?

    The Zeppelin NT has received certification from the Federal Aviation Agency in the United States in 2008. This is expected to greatly increase its market in the US toursim industry. The company is always looking for more ways to promote it and the silent operation of the Zeppelin NT greatly helps. It is already a big attraction in Germany and Japan which are the main buyers.

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    Image Credit

    USS Shenandoah. (Supplied by US Government; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/USS_Shenandoah_Bau.jpg)

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    Reference

    Zeppelin NT, http://www.zeppelinflug.de/seiten/e/default.htm