JIA? JAXPORT? JAX CHAMBER? LUFTSCHIFF HOCH!


Article by Robert W. Mann

Published December 31, 2014 in Transportation - MetroJacksonville.com


Long forgotten and lost in the dusty pages of history, the great airships of the past are quietly coming back to life and several will soon be in commercial service. What if The Jacksonville Aviation Authority and JAXPORT actively attracted some of these companies to relocate or establish terminals here? Could this be our chance to win back the cargo laden  skies over Florida?

It started with the military and a need for surveillance over extended periods of time from the edge of space (without the NASA price tag). The spread of hot spot combat situations around the globe also created a demand for a heavy lift vehicle that could use VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) abilities to virtually any point on the globe. The Royal Navy joined into the act by considering a wonderful new method of resupply for the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

Around the globe, aerospace industries have started playing with Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin's mammoth flying machines. The idea is 140 years old. By 1900, 3 years before the brothers Wright would fly 20 feet in a self propelled airplane called the 'Wright Flyer,' Zeppelin was airborne and international. A tradition had already been established within the fledgling industry with an expression along the lines of 'bon voyage,' or 'pleasant journey,' the term is 'LUFTSCHIFF HOCH!' meaning, 'airship high!.'



The Norge, first aircraft over the North Pole
Commons Photo


The ZR-3 Los Angeles floating over Manhattan
Commons Photo
US Navy Photo


LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin visiting Florida
Florida Memory Photo


LZ-129 The Hindenburg
Commons Photo

The public memory usually fast forwards to the explosive crash of the LZ-29 Hindenburg, yet during an age when the average airplane could carry 14 passengers and their luggage, that same Hindenburg and her sisters was capable of carrying 200+. The Airship 'Norge' (Norway) made the first verified overflight of, and the first verified trip of any kind to the North Pole, on 12 May 1926. Airships beat Lindberg's little airplane 'The Spirit of St. Louis,' across the Atlantic by 8 years and flew around the world including the first trips of any aircraft over the Pacific ocean. One of the most amazing airships of that era was named after the German pioneer of airships, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who was a count (Graf) in the German nobility. During its operating life, the airship 'Graf Zeppelin' made 590 flights covering more than a million miles (1.6 million km). It was designed to be operated by a crew of 36 officers and men.

So what exactly are these things? A balloon is simply a giant envelope filled with hot air or a lifting gas known as an aerostat, it goes wherever the wind takes it. Nevertheless the first manned flight was performed by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d'Arlandes in a hot air balloon on December 14, 1782. An aerostat is an aircraft which remain aloft using buoyancy or static lift, as opposed to the aerodynamic which obtains lift by moving through the air. Airships are a type of aerostat. Airships were originally called dirigible balloons from the French ('dirigere' meaning steerable or navigable). This came to be shortened to "dirigible" and this term is still sometimes used to mean any powered or steerable aerostat or balloon. A blimp by American definition, is a non-rigid aerostat (meaning it has no metal or other internal framework) the name refers specifically to a non-rigid type of dirigible (steerable - powered) balloon or airship. The term zeppelin is a genericized trademark that originally referred to airships manufactured by the German Zeppelin Company, which pioneered the use of very large airships in the early years of the twentieth century. The initials LZ, for Luftschiff Zeppelin (German for "Zeppelin Airship"), usually prefixed their craft's serial identifiers. In technical usage, rigid airship is the term used for all aircraft of this type, with zeppelin referring only to aircraft of that manufacture. In modern common usage, the terms zeppelin and airship are used interchangeably for any type of rigid airship.



Zeppelin Tech
Photo Courtesy of: Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH


Roll out of the Zeppelin NT


Unobstructed view from the cockpit
Photo Courtesy of: Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH


One can lean out of the window
Photo Courtesy of: Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH


Thrust is directional so crews are minimal
Photo Courtesy of: Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH




The interior of the NT is quite comfortable it includes a lavatory, 3 crew and 14 passenger seating
Photo Courtesy of: Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH

In the fall of 1988 Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH started a review whether reviving the Zeppelin airships would be technologically and economically viable. The company combed through the archives of the historic Zeppelin airships, stored in the company headquarters. By March of 1991, a remote control test model weighing 44 pounds and 33 feet long revealed excellent flight characteristics during the very first test flight. It shows that the basic concept of a rigid structure to which the newly designed swivelling propellers are fixed, guarantee highest safety and so far, unmatched maneuverability. By mid summer development team files and receives several patents worldwide. These patents include, amongst others, the triangular structure, the arrangement of the propellers, the ballonet design, and the carbon-fiber girders. In July of 1996 the curtain rose on the new Zeppelin era as the company opened it's doors to the media for a first look at the new ship. Then at 7:47pm, September 1997, the new Zeppelin NT07 unmasts in front of the exhibition hall in Friedrichshafen, rising for a historic 40 minute flight, many decades after their historic tragedy, Zeppelin is back. Historically in May 2011, Goodyear (America's one-time Zeppelin builder) ordered three new Zeppelin NT model LZ N07-101's at a cost of approximately 14.5 Million Euros each, the largest deal in the history of ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH & Co. KG. After component production at Friedrichshafen, the final assembly took place in the Goodyear airship hangar in Akron, OH. The first Zeppelin NT commenced its Goodyear operation at the beginning of 2014. Besides the airship sale, the deal also includes an agreement for close co-operation between the two companies. This three airship sale doubles the worldwide Zeppelin NT fleet.

Lockheed Martin Corporation designed and built a strange looking hybrid airship called the P-791 for the competition for the US Military's needs. Boeing jumped onboard in partnership with CargoLifter and designed the CL-160. Worldwide Aeros designed and built the nearly 300 foot long 'scale model' of it's ship called 'Dragon Dream,' and finally the largest of them all is the Hybrid Air Vehicles's 'Airlander,' in the UK which actually attains 300 feet. In Canada Millennium Airship Inc., first addressed the system attributes required to meet overall customer system requirements identified by their top level requirements. Skyfreighter Canada Ltd. is now taking those conceptual and scientific studies toward the production goal of a 50 ton airship and a 14 TEU capacity.

Almost predictably, an economic crash, massive defense cuts and resulting curtailment of defense capabilities and sudden order cancelations appeared as it might bring the whole industry down in flames again; but not this time. Ron Hochstetler, head of the 'Cargo Airships for Northern Operations Workshop,' says that airships could transport far more cargo than airplanes to remote locations in the Arctic. And airships don’t rely on expensive airport infrastructure. Ron's point shouldn't be lost on minds at the top of Jacksonville's aviation and port facilities. If you want to open up a new route for containers or other hardware to Caribbean Islands, South America or Africa, you are going to be focused on building the infrastructure to support it after which you will have to develop, build, or buy your transport vehicle, however, if you can come up with a technology like the airship where the vast majority of investment goes into the vehicle, not into the ground, you’ve got a new ballgame. Imagine the attraction of showing a new prospective industry the results of a test with 6-8 high value/high priority containers coming from Hamburg to Jacksonville direct by airship next to figures for Jax and the other east coast ports by water. Who gets the relocation?



Out in the Skunk Works in California, home to our most advanced aviation developments comes the P-791
Photo Courtesy of: Lockheed-Martin


The company has big plans for this division and has been talking to Alaska DOT
Photo Courtesy of: Lockheed-Martin


The P-791 is actually just a ? full size version of things to come, they are bullish on the commercial value of their ship
Photo Courtesy of: Lockheed-Martin


Photo Courtesy of: US Navy


Boeing teamed up for it's high altitude near-space airship
Photo Courtesy of: Boeing


Airlander's size chart
Photo Courtesy of: Airlander


Airlander's polar mission concept
Photo Courtesy of: Airlander


Airlander coming and...
Photo Courtesy of: Airlander


Airlander going
Photo Courtesy of: Airlander

Undaunted by apparent setbacks, Airlander bought it's giant back from the U.S. Army, meanwhile in France, Thale's Aerospace, is flying high rushing to completion on it's solar powered StratoBus Airship, a hybrid of a satellite and a drone. StratoBus will fly at 60,000 feet (commercial jet's typically fly up to 39,000 feet) and be able to stay aloft for a year at a time. All of this for pennies compared to the cost of a space based satellite. StratoBus should be in the air within 5 years,  it could serve the military in crisis areas, carrying cameras, radars or telecommunication relays.

Igor Pasternak, chief executive of Worldwide Aeros, said airships could spur a revolution in air transport. "We are creating the Internet for logistics," he said. The company is working with potential users to explore how best to employ such transportation systems. "The challenge is how do we structure the right business model," Mr. Pasternak said. The attraction of the massive hulls, which can measure more than 500 feet in length, is their ability to carry large amounts of cargo from remote areas where planes often can't land. Though slower than a cargo jet, blimps have far lower transport costs, so low in fact that it has been calculated that a transcontinental trip could actually consume the same amount of fuel from Los Angles to New York, as a 747 burns rolling from the gate 1.5 miles to the end of the runway in Los Angles.

Airlander has started work on their 'Airlander 50' airship, which will have a range of 2,600 nautical miles with 50 passengers in the forward cabin and 6 containers in the aft cargo hold. Worldwide Aero's Craft has started design work on its first two operational ML866s, vehicles capable of carrying 250 tons of cargo. Production plans are ambitious, but we could see hundreds of airships in service from Alaska to Antarctica within 30 years. The firms are bullish on the market but shy away from guessing actual numbers because this is a completely reborn and disruptive technology.


Worldwide Aeros is now working on the 'Mother of all Airships!'
Photo Courtesy of: Worldwide Aeros


Worldwide Aeros Dragon Dream
Photo Courtesy of: Worldwide Aeros


Worldwide Aeros Dragon Dream
Photo Courtesy of: Worldwide Aeros


Photo Courtesy of: Worldwide Aeros




Photo Courtesy of: Worldwide Aeros

On the night of January 14, 1929, the most repeated question on the lips of every Jaxson was, 'Did you see the Los Angeles last night?' The 2,472,000 cubic foot rigid airship was built at Friedrichshafen, Germany, by the Zeppelin Company in 1924 as LZ-126, she had a long career as the most successful of all American airships. She had been moored to the USS Patoka in St. Andrews Bay, Florida on the Gulf Coast when she nosed her great mass in our direction. Local amateur radio operator Gifford Grange picked up the approaching aerial leviathan and quickly called the local papers. Locally small planes went up as a sort of honor guard to greet her in the air. By 6pm on the 13Th she hove into view, slowly circling the city,  for nearly 3 hours. Every factory whistle, locomotive, church bell and car horn in the city were blasting their fondest greetings. It lasted until the apparition, bigger then two Everbank Fields, vanished back into the night. One could easily say that for one night in history, Jacksonville was lighter than air over the future.  It's a future that is swiftly approaching cities all over the globe again, but only a few will be quick enough or smart enough to snare the industry and own it.

The first full service remote terminal for the UK's Airlander airships has just been announced. Airships Arabia is poised to create a UAE based airship operations, maintenance, repair, overhaul, and crew training enterprise with a focus on hybrid airships, as they become available from manufacturers, following type certification.  They plan to serve the needs of end users and beneficiaries across the Middle East, as well as providing technical support to independent owners and operators of both conventional and hybrid airships in this region.

The fact that the first terminal is going up should be enough to start our air and port and chamber making some serious inquiries. 30 years ago I proposed a return to streetcar/light-rail, at the time we would have been the first, today we'd take a place around 100, please don't let this opportunity fall on deaf ears.

The Internet for logistics? Jacksonville? How determined are we to truly be America's Logistics Center?  'Luftschiff Hoch!'



Cargolifter might have gotten the cart before the horse when they build a massive hanger without an airship, breaking the company the hanger became an amusement park
Photo Courtesy of: Cargolifter/Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH


True believers in some of their very unique design work, Zeppelin now has the intellectual properties and Cargolifter is back in the saddle as part of the Logistics Alliance Germany
Photo Courtesy of: Cargolifter/Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH


In the far north they are creating an operating consortium among Millennium Airship Inc. (US Corporation) and Canadian Affiliated companies in the joint operation of SkyFreighter Canada ltd.
Photo Courtesy of: SkyFreighter Canada ltd.


SkyFreighter Canada ltd.
Photo Courtesy of: SkyFreighter Canada ltd.


Does this rendering remind you of a place you know? SkyFreighter Canada ltd.
Photo Courtesy of: SkyFreighter Canada ltd.



Article by Robert W. Mann. Contact Robert at bob@metrojacksonville.com


This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-dec-jia-jaxport-jax-chamber-luftschiff-hoch


Metro Jacksonville

Copyright MetroJacksonville.com