The development of the Zeppelin NT

Since mid 1991 certain news releases appeared from time to time about new activities on airship construction in Friedrichshafen. What was this all about?

It was in 1988 when first thoughts were made on whether it would be economically and technically viable to revive airship travel. What had changed to ask this question again?

Another reason is that people seem to enjoy more nostalgic experiences showing in the strong increase of hot air balloon trips as well as traveling with steam trains, steam boats and canal boats. Also the number of visitors to museums has never been greater before.

After all, there has been great technological progress in lightweight construction, envelope materials, propulsion and control technology, proving that the new technology in airship travel with regard to technical, economic and safety standards, is not comparable to the original technology from the beginnings of airship travel.

 

The Zeppelin NT design concept

Ballonets keep the internal pressure inside the Zeppelin NT constant, the shape, however, is mainly maintained by a rigid, triangular framework, even in the case of pressure loss. All heavy parts such as the propulsion engines with propellers, control surfaces, gondola etc. are mounted directly to this structure in the best possible place. The engines, for example, are placed well away from the cabin, so that the passengers are not disturbed by noise or vibrations. The positioning of the engines also accounts for the airship´s high maneuverability. Due to the use of state-of-the-art components an excellent payload to dead load ratio is achieved. The framework combined with the envelope carry the loads in operation.

The bending forces which are crucial for the design are almost uniformly absorbed by the rigid structure and the envelope. Air-filled ballonets are positioned underneath the framework and protect the rigid structure from harmful shocks, in case of a very hard landing, by forming an air-cushion.

 

Technical data

  • Dimensions total volume 8,200 m3
  • Length 75 m
  • Max. diameter 14.16 m
  • Standard cruising altitude 300 m
  • Max. take-off weight 7,900 kg
  • Payload 1,700 kg, no. of seats: 12 passengers, 1 pilot, 1 flight attendant
  • Performance: max. cruising speed 120 km/h – standard cruising speed 70 km/h
  • Max. cruising altitude 2,400 m
  • Endurance at 70 km/h 18 hours
  • Three engines with a total of 440 kW (600 hp)