In October 2012, the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner smashed four world records by jumping from a balloon 24 miles (39 km) high, and becoming the first person to break the sound barrier unaided. It was the highest balloon ascent, the highest parachute jump and the greatest free-fall velocity. The fourth record that many people missed was that his balloon was the largest ever made. It was 335ft high (102.5m) – taller than the Statue of Liberty and almost the height of St Paul’s Cathedral. It had a maximum volume of 30 million cubic feet, but the polyethylene it was made from was only 0.0008 inches thick.
Cepelinai (Zeppelins) are huge Lithuanian dumplings stuffed with cheese and meat and topped with cream and bacon.
Soon after the hot-air balloon was invented in 1783, people began to attempt to navigate the balloon's flight. Sails, paddles and flapping wings were tried but propellers proved to be the most suitable form of propulsion. It was not until the invention of the petrol engine in 1896 that airships became practical and in 1898 the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first to construct and fly a petrol-powered airship.
Rigid airships rose to the peak of their commercial success between World War I and World War II. Britain’s R34 crossed the Atlantic in 1919 and The Graf Zeppelin travelled 20 000 miles (32,000 km) around the world in 1929.
Although it no longer makes airships, Goodyear is the name synonymous with the manufacture of blimps or non-rigid airships. During the first half of the twentieth century, it manufactured over 300 blimps, more than any other airship manufacturer. The Goodyear blimps were primarily used by the U.S. Army and Navy for aerial surveillance.
The 200ft tall tower on top of the Empire State Building was originally intended as a mooring mast for airships.
The rigid airship was invented by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
The Hindenburg – one of the biggest airships ever built was 803 ft 10 in (245 m) in length. It had a crew of up to 60 and could carry 72 passengers in remarkably modern-looking surroundings. In spite of being filled with highly flammable hydrogen gas, it was permitted to smoke on board and carried a cigarette lighter for passengers’ use.
It was destroyed in a sudden, catastrophic fire in 1937 while tethered to a mast at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, killing 36 people. No rigid airship was built from the 1930s to the late 1990s.
10 years before the Hindenburg disaster - the USS Los Angeles was tethered to the same mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey when a gust of wind lifted her tail high into the air. The crew tried to compensate by climbing up towards the rising end, but couldn’t stop the ship from reaching an angle of 85˚ before righting itself. The ship suffered only slight damage and was able to fly the next day.
A full-grown manatee, which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds, looks like the result of a genetic experiment involving a walrus and the Goodyear Blimp.
One of Buckminster Fuller's inventions in the 1920s involved ultra-light residential towers using materials that hadn’t been invented yet. He called them Lightful Towers. They would be assembled at a central location then transported all over the world via zeppelin. The zeppelin crew would excavate the site by dropping a small bomb and then plant the house in the ground. Each house would have a central lift and a swimming pool in the basement.
Unsurprisingly, the idea didn't get very far.
The French inventor, Henri Giffard built a steam-powered airship in 1852.
The largest commercial airship today is the British HAV304 ‘Airlander’ airship which is 300ft long, 113ft wide and 85ft high. It can reach 100mph, stay airborne for 3½ weeks and carry 50 tonnes. Using only two crew members it could circumnavigate the earth twice in one flight. It was part funded by Bruce Dickinson, better known as the lead singer of Iron Maiden who is also a professional Boeing 757 pilot.
Airlander is 60ft longer than the longest planes, and about 70% greener and infinitely quieter than its competitors. It derives 60% of its lift from helium and 40% from the cambered shape of its hull and four V8 turbocharged diesel engines. It doesn't need a runway to take off and can land on water, sand or ice.
There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run there's still time to change the road you’re on.