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(Constance, Baden, 1838 - Berlin, 1917) German military officer who invented the dirigible balloon. On this general of cavalry served in the armies of Wurttenberg, Prussia and the German Empire. Ferdinand von Zeppelin came into contact with navigation ballooning during the American civil war (1861-65), which made several ascents in observation balloon for the army of the North.
Ferdinand von Zeppelin
In 1890, he left the army to devote himself to develop a rigid dirigible balloon with engine, which would become known by the name of Zeppelin. The first of these airships was tested in the area of Lake Constance in 1900, even with many technical problems. Almost half a century before, in 1852, Giffard French had been the first to fly an airship of profile fusiform, with Government and propeller system and powered by a steam engine. The device was rather primitive and not perfected until the last decade of the 19th century, when Daimler invented the petrol engine, fast and light. In 1884, the French Kreb and Renard built an airship for the army, and by the year 1900, the Brazilian Santos Dumont performed experiments in France with small airships powered by miniature gasoline engines.
Ferdinand von Zeppelin
But the final and practical design of the airship was the work of Ferdinand von Zeppelin and his chief engineer Eckener, which projected an airship of rigid structure consisting of a frame, aluminium or light alloy. The main body of the unit was divided into sections and each of them was installed a Chamber filled with hydrogen that provided the necessary support during the flight. A cabin for the crew and passengers, in which motors and maneuver controls were was suspended under the front. In 1906 he made a journey of 24 hours by Swiss land, began to arouse the enthusiasm of both the public and the German Government.
In 1909, Ferdinand von Zeppelin created a company of air transport of passengers by airships (DELAG). With the permission of Zeppelin, and under his direction, over a hundred of these zeppelins were built during the decades of the twenties and thirties, who comfortably transported to numerous travelers all over the world. During the first World War (1914-18) were used more than 100 airships by the army and the Navy of Germany, both in tasks of recognition (with an important role in the battle of Jutland) to the aerial bombing of enemy territory. However, its slowness, its size and its fragility made them very vulnerable to the anti-aircraft artillery, once it made its appearance, by which ceased to be used for the bombings after the failure of an attack on London in 1917.
In 1919, a Zeppelin crossed the Atlantic, and in 1926, the Italian Nobile, on board the airship Norge, overflew the North Pole. Died in 1917, Ferdinand von Zeppelin did not see fulfilled his dream of organizing transatlantic flights, which was realized between 1928 and 1937. Airships continued to use commercial purposes throughout the interwar period (until 1940). However, due to the risk of fire by inflammation of the gas which was used to lift and the great development that reached the airplane, they were relegated to a very secondary position and finally ceased to be built. In May 1937, the famous disaster of the Hindenburg, huge appliance measuring 248 metres in length and which caught fire upon landing near New York, marked the decline of these aircraft.