A Luxembourg-based airfreight company, Cargolux, has announced their plans to revive the ill-fated airships for more mundane purposes. The Cargolux company’s next generation of Zeppelins will be designed to be the new cargo carriers and the first fleet of 22 airships are expected to begin their operations over Europe, as early as 2016.
The original Zeppelin airships were pioneered in the early part of the 20th century by German count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. The rigid airship design is typically associated with the German designer, but the latest incarnations of the iconic wartime aircraft however, are being built over the pond, in the USA, specifically in California, under a partnership with US firm Aeroscraft Corporation.
The Zeppelins, which are capable of taking off and landing vertically, will be 554ft in length and have a load capacity of 65 tonnes. The aircraft will also have a cruising speed of up to 120 knots and a range of 3,100 nautical miles.
The earlier versions of the Zeppelin transported it’s cargo via a gondola suspended beneath the aircraft, but this is far too impractical for today’s world, therefore, the new models will carry their cargo inside their massive hulls. Although Zeppelins are currently employed for advertising and surveillance work, (there are still a few which are also used for pleasure flights from a German base) efforts to use them for cargo have failed to take off in recent years, this is partly due to an enduring safety concern.
The general public’s confidence in the safety of the aircraft was devastated after 36 people died in the Hindenburg disaster in 1937. The accident happened when the German passenger Zeppelin exploded in a fireball as it docked in New Jersey. In efforts to prevent similar disasters from happening today, the new Zeppelins will be filled with non-flammable helium rather than the hydrogen used in the days of the Hindenburg.
[Image via plos]