Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Varialift Airship - a progress update

The Varialift Airship is a new concept for an Airship with a variable lift system, developed and invented by Alan Handley. The variable lift, will make ground handling of this airship a lot easier. We first reported about Varialift back in April 2007 with the Varialift Website announcement and a look at his Varialift patent application today we get the chance to give you a little update as to what has been going on. Mr Handley was so kind and shared this press release with us.
Varialift Airships

The development of the varialift principle has taken a new step forward in recent weeks with the start of construction of two varialift units for proof of concept and test purposes.

The units would form part of a number of units running the length of the airship that will have variable lift capability plus load trimming for the aircraft.

The announcement was made at the Fourth International Symposium “Making it Happen” in Winnipeg Canada on October 31st 2007 during a presentation by Alan Handley CEO of Varialift Airships

The presentation illustrated how the units work and how by using them heavy lift up to 1000 tonnes is possible for cargo carrying over long and short haul flights.

This is the last part of a five year development program of the concept this has included not only the formulation of the aircraft and mathematical modelling but also the IP protection by international Patent Applications

The airship will be constructed entirely of aluminum and the picture below shows the very first section being manufactured.

Further information on the website
Mr Handley also shared two pictures with us showing "the first top section being tested for self support (A total of 10 will be required)." Enjoy and click on the images to get a bigger version.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

N470 - The Zeppelin over Holland - [updated]

It kind of caught me by surprise, when I was searching through you tube the other day. There were many many videos of the Zeppelin NT with a weird N470 writing on it's envelope. Like this one "Zeppelin NT07 (N470) landing at Rotterdam Airport"

But this is by far not the only video, check out the related Videos that the Video player shows after the Video is done, or take a look over at Youtube at these Videos
A little search quickly turns up the Page Zirkus Zeppelin is from what I understand an Artproject by Florentijn Hofman about the N470 Highway in the province Zuid-Holland. As far as I understand Florentijn selected 470 people who life around the N470 or where involved during the construction of the highway to fly on the Zeppelin. They should take pictures and share their stories of the experience of the flight along the N470, all this will then be published in an illustrated book. We are going to Contact Florentijn Hoffman and Zeppelin for more information about this project. For now I invite you to check out all these Flickr images taken on the Flights along the N470

From what I could read on the Zirkus Zeppelin website the Zeppelin NT was only flying for about a week in the Netherlands but all those pictures taken prove it once again. An Airship of whatever kind is a very efficient marketing instrument that reaches many thousand people in a short amount of time and seeing an airship usually leads to positive reactions by the people who see it. We will be featuring more information about the effectiveness of Airships in marketing soon. So keep an eye out and check back regularly.

[Update]We got a reply from Florentijn Hofman, we basically got it right, so our skills in deciphering foreign languages without the tiniest bit of knowledge about them aren't so bad after all. Here is a short excerpt of the Mail we got back
I wanted to show people the road and the area around the road from a perspective architects draw their plans.
With a zeppelin you bring another layer into the project, spectaculair, the right speed to read the landscape and the history around zeppelins included.
Those issues makes the choice for renting this zeppelin clear and much better than a helicopter or plane or balloon. (this last one was also no option while a wanted to bring 470 people up in the sky).
According to Florentijn the financing of the project was possible because the province which built the N470 took 1% of the cost of the highway construction to art and from that budget the NT could be rented.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Goodyear meets Zeppelin

Today I would like to talk about Jens Schenkenberger a Zeppelin and Airship enthusiast from Germany. He has a nice website called that is worth a visit, he has a wealth of information about Airships available for the interested. His website is also available in English, even though the most content is available in German. Click here for the english version of his Website. He also has put together an Exhibition about the Goodyear Blimp operations out of Akron Ohio. The exhibit can bee seen in the "Grenz-Raum" of the Zeppelin-Museum Friedrichshafen (Lake Constance in Germany) from November 16th, 2007 to January 6th, 2008. The exhibit features models, authentic airship parts, photos, magazines, merchandise, and more. Unlike many other Companies in the Airship Business Goodyear has the longest running tradition with their blimp business. Check out the articles in German and English on his Website for more information about the exhibit. So if you happen to be in Germany make a trip to Lake Constance and visit the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen. Go to their Website for more details on how to get there and when they are open.
If you want to read more about the Goodyear Blimps check out these related stories:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Total Pole Airship - in pictures and media

We first reported about the Total Pole Airship Expedition way back in April 2007. Back then details were sparse and we promised to keep an eye on the project. Well the wait is over. Here are our updates. After many months the Russian AU-30 (54 m long, 13,5 m diameter, 5,000 m3) built by RosAeroSystems has been completed. Check out this Flickr slideshow by Dominique Pipet

If you can not see the slideshow please go directly to Flickr and visit Dominique Pipet's photos of the Airship. But that's not the only bit we have for you. A few updates to the Total Pole Airship Website where totally (no pun intended) missed by our radar. So check them out, the first article from August 20th 2007 is entitled "Construction speeds up" the second one posted September 21, 2007 titled "Our airship arrives" next one from September 28, 2007 has the title "The balloon is filled" and the last one from October 16, 2007 with the title "The official christening of the Total Pole Airship at Marseille airport"
Also on a side note Jim Smith from the Airship-list pointed to this article "Monaco Prince to Go to North Pole on Russian Airship" which states that Prince Albert II may join the expedition next year. Jim Smith also found another good article here "TOTAL POLE AIRSHIP : Mesurer la banquise" (click here for the English translation). Searching through the site there was also another article with great pictures of the filling of the Airship check it out here Naissance d'un dirigeable (click here for the English version). And at the very end of that article was a link to a Video showing the filling of the airship in moving pictures. Check it out here. That's it for now, there is more material about the Total Pole Airship Project out there and we will pick up the topic again for sure as things are progressing. Make sure to check out all those links they contain many many nice pictures most of them that I haven't seen before. If you have any more websites, articles, links, videos or pictures that you would like to share, post a link in the comments or send us an email.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Strato Cruiser - the designers discover Airships

On October 8th the website dezeen a design magazine published a post called "Strato Cruiser airship concept by Tino Schaedler and Michael J Brown" featuring a futuristic design for a cruise airship. You can check out the original Pictures of the Stratocruiser if you go to Tino Schaedlerswebsite at then click on "Artwork" -> "Projects in Detail" -> "Architectural/ Exhibition Design" and there you find the link to the Stratocruiser pictures. Tino Schaedler who was born in Germany is an Art Director in the movie industry and just recently was also "artdirector for digital sets" in the Movie The Golden Compass check out the Trailer here, is it just a coincidence that this movie featured an airship? And what about Stardust there was an Airship in there too. And do you remember the Blimp a final year project by Carl Hagerling from Sweden. Read our post about his design project of a swivelling blimp-envelope being vertical when landing and horizontal in flight.
And just recently Johannes Eißing from the great RC Airship Regatta Yahoo Group pointed out a new site that features an Airship not much is known about that site at this moment but we will do our best to find out more. If you have any information for us that that you would like to share with our readers please don't hesitate to write a comment or send us an email, your feedback is always welcome and helps us to deliver more of what you want and less of what you do not want to read.
Also I would like to apologize for keeping the updates at such a low pace. There are things happening behind the scenes that I can not yet talk about but keep checking back or subscribe to the Blog and get automatic updates.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Commentary on the 17th Lighter-Than-Air Systems Technology Conference - 5th and last part

Today we conclude our coverage of the 17th Lighter-Than-Air Systems Technology Conference with the last part of the commentary. Sorry that it took so long, but my day job kept me quite busy. This last part is of course also written by our very own Charles Luffman from LTA Solutions Ltd.
Here are also the links again to the first 4 parts:But let's get to the final chapter, shall we.
Events of Thursday 20 September (3rd and final day of conference) - continued

LTA-7. This was to be the last session of the conference, from 15.30 – 18.00 and about Transport Airship Developments. Chaired by Robert Boyd, from Lockheed Martin Corporation, Palmdale, CA, USA, who I did not know. It was interesting to see the Lockheed style of business.

25) Robert’s first speaker was to be Thomas Brandt, the new CEO of ZLT Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH and Co KG, Friedrichshafen, Germany, on the Zeppelin NT as a Platform for Remote Sensing for Environmental and Industrial Applications. Thomas had been attending the conference, but it was rather unfortunate that he was called away on urgent business due the loss of the De Beers NT-07 airship at its mast in Botswana because of severe weather. No doubt this will be reported elsewhere. As a result Bernd Sträter, the previous CEO of ZLT and our conference chairman, stepped up to the podium to present the paper.

As most people know, ZLT is a leading company in the development and operation of airships and this paper reflected the high standards and professionalism of ZLT. The paper gives an overview about the Zeppelin NT airship and information about some of the projects it has been used to serve. We certainly hope that the incident in Botswana will not cause problems for ZLT or inhibit their business. Nonetheless, weather issues need to be looked at by the industry (as a whole) to see how best such losses may be prevented.

26) Presented by Ronald Hochstetler, this paper from his associate Ananthakrishna Sarma at SAIC (not there) about Optimization of Airship Routes for Weather under the circumstances was a pertinent topic to follow as Robert’s next item, since it highlights the issue. Being as light as air airships are delicate structures but, as any balloonist knows, when drifting with the wind there is calm – due to low or zero relative airspeed. Restraining or directing them against wind currents will always be a problem due to their great size. Adopting the minimum energy solution therefore, like balloonists who attempt global flights by getting into the jet stream and then letting it take them at quite high speeds across lands and oceans, is a way to deal with the issue. LTA aircraft may sail the skies using air currents to best advantage this way (as Hugo Eckner advocated and did). An algorithm for route planning was expounded, which no doubt will be an important tool in the future for operators and pilots. Airships on the ground, however, need further treatment.

27) I took some time out, so am not sure if this next paper was presented, since it was said to be withdrawn. Shame, because Grant Carichner was there (one of the panellists in the plenary session) and it would have been good to hear about the developments of the Lockhead Martin project. Hopefully we will get to see his paper Hybrid Airships: A Modern Perspective another time.

28) The next paper of Robert’s session, Effect of Wind on the Aerodynamic Drag of a High Altitude Airship was an addition to the programme given by Behnam Behesti, from the Institute of Energy Technology, Zurich, Switzerland. I returned during this paper, so cannot say very much, except (from reviewing the actual paper) it provided useful input from water tank towing tests to determine the flow over the hull, which is a scaling effect that makes such testing effective. The last paper also shows how such comparisons between water and airborne vessels are possible. Benham also undertook flow visualisation studies over the empennage, complimenting the water tank trials.

29) Speaking for himself this time, Ronald Hochstetler was Robert’s next presenter, there to tell us about an idea for the Establishment of a Transport Airship Competition. The LTA aircraft industry certainly needs a boost to help projects develop and this proposal by Ron, who knows the business well, was a very interesting suggestion that drew audience participation – who wanted to ask questions and provide further input. Ron gave an outline of typical competitions in the past from the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize, which Santos Dumont took in Paris (19 October 1901) with his airship Number 6, to modern day events, such as the recent “X-Prize” competition for the first commercial space ship. He also talked about various ways that such a competition could be held. If readers of the commentary also would like to make input we should be glad to hear what people think.

30) Always a delight to hear Richard van Treuren speak, Robert’s final presenter and the final speaker of the conference, who gave us a talk on Comparing 1928 Technology and Operation: USS Argonaut (SS-166) and Graf Zeppelin (LZ-127). Naturally this was from his research of historical aspects but where he found many parallels between submarines and airships. These parallels were well portrayed by his paper, which concentrated on the particular vessels of his subject. This also was a pleasant reflection on former times but with a lesson for engineers in the subject to use history and such parallels for new developments.

Concluding Remarks

It was a good friendly conference giving people from the LTA aircraft industry chance to network and keep up with latest developments. I certainly enjoyed the three days in Belfast, my first opportunity to visit the city and have a small chance to savour its ambiance – mainly lunchtimes and an evening walk.

It was noticeable this year that over half of the papers were by people from academic establishments, who were there showing their capabilities and readiness to serve the industry. Yes, some key industry people were there, but not in such great numbers as previous years, perhaps reflecting the lack of investment for this key sector of the aircraft industry.

It was also good that the AIAA made it possible for the LTA-TC to hold the conference in Europe (certainly making it easier for me to attend) alongside the ATIO conference people. Whilst the ATIO conference was bigger, the quality certainly was not better, as we were treated to excellent papers in the LTA conference of a high standard. The papers are all available from the AIAA, details below.

Hope to see and talk with you at the next event, wherever. For those who can’t wait, see details following.

Cheers, Charles

And this concludes our coverage, if you want to know more please don't hesitate to contact us. You can also get a PDF of the full Commentary at it also contains contact data of Charles and the AIAA and a list of all the Sessions with their AIAA Code so that you can get them from the AIAA Website.

Commentary of the AIAA’s 17th Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) Systems Technology Conference
Support independent publishing: buy this e-book on Lulu.
Tell us what you think about the PDF offering, is it something that you would pay money for or rather not? We are evaluating this new way of publishing at and are inviting everyone who is interested in publishing Papers or Books online to contact us, we can help you get going and provide you with the necessary infrastructure and support.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Zeppelin NT in Japan

Back in June we had an article about the Zeppelin of the Nippon Airship Corporation in Japan and that it will soon be offering sightseeing flights. Well this soon is now. Currently the Zeppelin NT number 2 operates in Tokyo you can check out the completely reworked japanese Website of NAC or take a look at the autotranslated english version. Most interesting might be the tours that are offered from November 23rd to January 5th over Tokyo if you are interested in a flight check out the special Cruise website and in case you don't read Japanese the auto translated version. If we decipher the Japanese correctly the prices range from 126,000 Yen to 168,000 Yen per flight which is 757,- to 1010,- Euros. The flights range from 90 Minutes to 2 hours. If you compare these prices to those charged by the Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei who charge 545,- Euros for a 90 Minute flight and 715,- Euros for the 2 hour tour the prices are higher but you always have to compare it with the local economy so you can really say it's more expensive for those who live there but if you are traveling from somewhere else in the world you might think about going to Japan if you want to budget. IF your Japanese skills are better than ours, it would be great if you could help us a bit understanding what else is said on those websites.
For the rest of us NAC also has only Englisch Website which mainly focuses on a Company presentation rather than the current operations.
I would like to thank aerocrat for his great Russian Airship blog he wrote about the current NAC operations (English translation here) and gave me a heads up. Also I want to thank our great auto translation service WorldLingo who provide us with this great service. If you have to translate something on the web check them out at Also I want encourage everyone who has not yet subscribed to the blog to do so, just use the links in the sidebar where it say "Subscribe to Airshipworld" also please leave us comments and email us. Send us your airship news stories that you have discovered.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Video footage of the Lockheed Martin / Skunkworks P-791 and the Skycat Skykitten

Thanks to our reader tryphonkorm from Greece we have some great stuff to share with you tonight. First of is a YouTube Video of the Lockheed Martin/Skunk Works P-791 this is the first video that I am aware of that made it into the public. Of course we will research the source of this video and see if we can get more information about it but it seems that by publishing and talking about it slowly more and more details surface.

In addition to this, we have to report of a live sign of the recently founded Company Hybrid Air Vehicles, the former Skycat group / ATG having the Skykitten. We also want to thank tryphonkorm for this link to a BBC Article about a passenger airship service from Cambridge to Oxford. Read the Article here "Airship may link historic cities". But if you are one of those people like me who love to see moving images this Article also features a small video report featuring footage of the Skykitten scale model of the larger Skycat. Click this link for the video page. Do you have more media, more footage or background information. Are you from Lockheed Martin or Skycat and want to share more about your projects and products then please contact us. If you have suggestions, tips, information or simply just want to share your opinion with us please leave a message in the comments or send us an email.

Friday, November 2, 2007

17th Lighter-Than-Air Systems Technology Conference - 4th part of commentary

Continuing our coverage of the 17th AIAA Lighter-Than-Air Systems Technology Conference we bring you the third part finishing Tuesday September 18th and going in to Wednesday September 19th. If you missed our previous posts you are invited to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before continuing on. As before this post is part of a longer Commentary written by Charles Luffman from LTA Solutions Ltd. Enjoy!
Events of Wednesday 19 September (2nd day of conference) - continued

LTA-5. The afternoon session concerning Airship Buoyancy Systems was chaired by Richard van Treuran, of the United Space Alliance, Cape Canaveral, FL, USA. Richard is a stalwart of the airship community, who has made LTA his second job, writing and publishing books and films on the topic via Atlantis Productions (, which he runs with his wife (Deborah), who was also at the event.

18) The first speaker in Richard’s session was Alexander Bormann, already discussed above. His paper on, New Insulation for Thermal Balloons and Airships, was a collaborative effort with associates from Berlin, Germany; Igualada, Spain; and Lausanne, Switzerland. He gave us important information about fabric developments that help to reduce heat losses, thereby improving performance and reducing the amount of fuel needed for sustained flight. As evident from the papers, Alexander provides technical services and is involved with leading developments in the LTA industry, particularly fabrics. No doubt much of this is from his work concerning steam filled balloons as an alternative to other gases and hot air. I hope to see more in the future.

19) Richards’s next speaker was Chris Severns, an employee of the Boeing Company, Issaquah, WA, USA, who really was there on his own behalf (with his wife) following his work as a leading engineer in the field of electrical power systems at CargoLifter in Germany – where I got to know him. CargoLifter was a phenomenon of our time that inspired many people. Sadly, we have lost this now due to prosaic bean counting by those who only understand accounts. The cost of this loss however is not just the relatively small amount of money involved (€300 million), compared with that invested in the HTA sector (many €Billions), but the enormous setback to the industry and society its ruthless abandonment caused, where funds for development are virtually non-existent now. Thanks to Chris’ perseverance, we now at least have something from the research he started in Germany, which no doubt also may be applied to other non LTA systems.

Chris’ paper about an, Airship Hybrid Power System Design Using Evolutionary Programming for Seeking Neutral Buoyancy was beyond my field of knowledge and with a fair amount of theory, but clearly was a topic for those inclined or involved in such developments in the audience.

20) The last of Richard’s speakers was again Alexander Bormann, with a paper entitled, HEIDAS UH: Flying with Super-Heated Steam. Yes, Alex is the other principal advocate of steam to Thomas Goodey (not at the conference) as a lifting gas. This was an informative paper on the subject and of importance, because steam is not often considered. Yet it provides ability to vary aerostatic lift in an affordable safe manner. More work on this subject is needed, so I hope to see more.

Evening 2. This brought us to an early end, giving one plenty of time before the evening’s Awards Banquet in the Grand Ballroom. This was a splendid occasion bringing together the several hundred delegates, partners and other visitors from the several groups holding conferences jointly. The ballroom was set up with large round tables to accommodate the many guests. It was a convivial occasion with wine and social chitchat flowing freely. However, the highlight of the evening were the awards, where George Spyrou of AMS was given recognition for his services to the airship industry and Hepburn Walker, the veteran of airships, was awarded posthumously for his life time contributions in this field. Hep’s award was received by Richard van Treuran on behalf of Hep’s family. It was very pleasing to see LTA people being given such recognition.

Events of Thursday 20 September (3rd and final day of conference)

LTA-6. The final day of the conference again was started promptly by Alexander Bormann for that morning’s session about Aerostat and Airship Structures.

21) Alex’s first speaker was Shoji Maekawa, an invited researcher at JAXA in Japan, who presented the work of his team on Tear Propagation of a High Performance Airship Envelope Material. Tear propagation of fabrics in airship envelopes is a sensitive issue, so his oral presentation was much appreciated. He showed us the bi-axial test and pressurised cylinder work undertaken together with results achieved for the Zylon material tested. This was important work for the future of LTA aircraft, to get reliable data and lightweight fabrics for envelopes and gas cells with high rip strength properties – an aspect that is worrying with some fabrics. Understanding the behaviour is a necessary aspect to developing solutions and confidence, so it was good to hear about this work.

22) Still with more to speak about, Alex’s next presenter was again Rajkumar, to tell us about his team’s work on Multidisciplinary Shape Optimization of Aerostat Envelopes. This essentially was an exercise that had been undertaken to find the best profile, balancing cost and performance, for their airship projects. In the end Raj showed us that their original simple profiling method was good enough but weight reductions were possible by tailoring – using lighter materials at the nose and stern.

23) Pramud Rawat from Columbia, MD, USA was Alex’s next speaker, who gave a presentation on Nonlinear Analyses of Aerostat Behavior. Pramud clearly had significant experience concerning the deployment of aerostats both at high and low altitude, and in different locations. His message was simple enough to understand, where he was advising analysts to do the non-linear analysis with all of the terms included instead of simplifying and linearising the formulae. This was because he had found from experience some very nasty conditions, which only the non-linear approach would predict.

This was rather important to overcome overload situations where the tether would fail and the aerostat lost. The mediating factor he explained, however, was that aerostats were cheap and it perhaps wasn’t practical (due to excessive tether weight) to cover these occasional cases, so operators should keep a couple of spares on hand to keep the operation going when aerostats are lost – usually in places where supply is difficult.

24) Yet again, but for the last time, Rajkmar returned to the podium as Alex’s last speaker to present his teams effort in India concerning Design and Fabrication of an Aerostat for Wireless Communication in Remote Areas. Aerostats, as Raj explained, were being looked at in India as a simple, cost effective way to hoist communication systems that could be rapidly set up in remote places all over India. The presentation showed how a cost effective design with locally produced fabrics was being established for the purpose.

Mid-day 3. So, with the morning’s session over but a full afternoon yet to follow, it was out into Belfast for a quick bowl of stew and a cup of tea before the final events. Then back to the Edinburgh Suite again for more.

LTA Plenary session. The first event of the afternoon (13.00 – 15.00), instead of being another session of presentations, was an opportunity for review of the Environmental Advantages of Transport Airships, with full participation from the delegates there. The event was chaired by: Gregory Gottlieb, who is an Airship Association Committee Member, and currently lives in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The review was a little like some television debates, where there is a panel responding to input from the audience as well as the panel espousing their views. Gregory’s panel comprised: Grant Carichner, Lockhead Martin Aeronautics Company, Palmdale, USA; Ronald Hochstetler, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), McLean, VA, USA; and Richard Smith, Shell Global Solutions.

After explaining how things were run, each of the panellists talked briefly about themselves and their views on the subject to get things started. Gregory then addressed the delegates in the audience again to get input and with Mike Conners and Bernd Stäter carrying microphones around for delegates to be heard. Things quickly got underway and a useful exchange ensued. Many points were made, which I believe will be useful to help establish LTA aircraft for such purposes. Hopefully somebody recorded the debate some how.
This concludes part 4 of our commentary. We will return with part 5 soon and are also looking into making the papers that where presented available to download. If you have presented one of those papers and would like to share it with the public as a PDF download or would like to share your Powerpoint presentation please contact us, so that we can make arrangements. If you know one of the presenters please help us to get as many of the presentations as a free download. The knowledge about Airships and especially the research needs to be spread throughout the world. If you know of links where one can buy the papers please forward those also to us.