Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Snow Bird a record breaking Airship

Copyright by the The Naval Airship Association we want to look at a very special airship that made history. The Navy Blimp ZPG-2, No 141561 called the Snow Bird. That went out to challenge the long distance record that was once set by the Graf Zeppelin on it's non-stop flight from Friedrichshafen, Germany to Tokyo, Japan. The two places where the Zeppelin is flying again today. Silver Donald Cameron brought the famous blimp back into our awareness with his column "Another way to fly: blimps" in the Chronicle Herald. The Snow Bird flew from South Weymouth, Mass to Europe, Africa and back across the Atlantic to Key West, Florida marking it the the longest unrefuelled flight ever made by an airship both in distance and time covering 9448 miles (15205 km) in 11 days. So when did that happen one might ask, it happened over 50 years ago and ever since no airship has ever come even remotely close to this record.

To learn more about the flight of the Snow Bird you might want to check out a few more great resources. The Naval Historical Center released a publication called Kite Balloons to Airships...the Navy's Lighter-than-Air Experience outlining the 75 years of history in LTA (Lighter-Than-Air) at the Navy. Chapter "XVI. LTA Records Set in the 1950s"(PDF) outlines the story on the Snowbird in great detail with many pictures. But the whole publication is worth a read. It's a free PDF download.

The Naval Airship Association also had a great article with pictures in their official newsletter The Noon Balloon(PDF) around page 18. Click here to get the Noon Balloon Number 73.

These where the Specifications of the ZPG-2 also called N Class Blimp :
General characteristics
  • Crew: 21
  • Length: 343 ft 0 in (104.57 m)
  • Diameter: 76 ft 0 in (23.17 m)
  • Height: 107 ft 0 in (32.62 m)
  • Volume: 1,011,000 ft³ (23,648 m³)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Wright R-1300-2 radials,, 800 hp (600 kW) each
  • Maximum speed: 80 mph (128 km/h)
  • Endurance: over 200 hours
How much would it cost to build and operate such a ship today? Would it not be a lot cheaper than 50years ago, wouldn't an airship build with new composite materials perform much better than this 50 years old ship? There is a future for airships, if it was possible to build something like that 50 years ago it's an easy task to build it today. Just take the old design, replace the envelope material with a better one and the engines, too and start from there. A proven airworthy design which could be optimized in future iterations.

So I can only agree to Silver Donald Cameron that airships have a great future ahead. They can provide alternative ways of travel with less fuel consumption than any modern air plane. Sure they are slower but there are lot's of applications where time is not so much an issue. Check out Mr Camerons Blogs Sailing Away from Winter and Silver Donald on Sunday for more columns and bits by him.

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Anonymous said...

9.500 miles unrefueled? I'm not even sure a modern ship can do that.

Anonymous said...

I have a piece of this airship!

Unknown said...

I must to say i love the snow, the cold climate, although i´m not a child anymore i remember my happy childhood and all the beutiful time that i spent with all my friends. Now when is snowing i prefer to spend my time with my boyfriend, most of all that he decided to buy viagra, we enjoy all the time.

ofertas muebles madrid said...

It cannot really have success, I suppose so.

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