This article is brought to you by audible. You know what’s, something that we never think about, but makes pretty much everything in the world possible. Air pressure, like you literally couldn’t, breathe without air pressure, and that may sound like a does statement, but seriously when you breathe in you’re, not so much sucking air in as much as creating a space that is then filled By air pushed in by outside pressure, the air pressure at sea level is one atmosphere which is basically 14.
7 pounds of force per square inch all over your body everywhere, all the time and because we evolved in this, we don’t even feel it. We don’t even realize it’s. There we feel like air is just nothing, but it’s.
Actually, this really dense gaseous fluid, like thing and without this constant everywhere, all the time pressure you wouldn’t even be able to hold oxygen in your blood. The oxygen will just come right out of your blood cells, the temperature at which water, evaporates and freezes changes because of pressure pressure, changes.
Everything, and you know what this is. Actually, one of my big problems with science fiction movies and TV shows whenever they go to an alien planet. They always just look to see. If it has oxygen like ooh, it has oxygen.
We can breathe that well, no, not necessarily like the composition, doesn’t matter. If the pressure is only half of what we can breathe, you’d, still pass out and die. It’s. Still, every single planet they go to just magically has the perfect pressure to it anyway.
The point is the air that we breathe in the air that we live in is really more of a dense fluid like thing and it’s. The manipulation of this fluid like thing that makes flying possible. You know, airplanes may look like they’re defying gravity, but they’re.
Basically, just giant hydrofoils like when you watch an airplane take off, you almost have to imagine being underwater for it to make sense, because the principle is the same, but before airplanes there were airships which actually lifted off the ground by manipulating air pressure itself.
Their glory days of coming gamma, they got a fascinating history, surprisingly fascinating, and they may actually have a role to play in our future. On June 4, 1783, a crowd of onlookers and uh ninite.
France witnessed the first demonstration of a hot air balloon lifting up into the sky and into the history books, because history books are really high up in the atmosphere. It was constructed by two brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, who are paper manufacturers at the time, but they became known as the father & # 39.
S have lighter than air flight. Their demonstration was followed quickly by a test with animals on board. Then a tethered test with people on board and then on November 21st. 1893. Two passengers, not the brothers smart, made the first free ascent in a hot-air balloon.
So two interesting things about this flight. First of all, it took off from the current location of the Eiffel Tower, which is kind of interesting and to one of the witnesses of that event was none other than Ben Franklin himself, and he described it like this.
We observed it lift off in the most majestic manner when it reached around 250 feet in altitude. The intrepid voyagers lower their has to salute the spectators. We cannot help feeling a certain mixture of awe and admiration, but the manga flame brothers, didn’t discover this lighter-than-air phenomenon.
It had been around for a really long time. The Chinese, with their floating lamps, for example, they’ve, been doing that since about 280, those were actually called. Cun means lights. A Portuguese priest named Bartolome de Guzman built a ladder than our device in 1709 that he called the passer Ola.
It was really more of a fun science novelty toy that he put together for the king and queen, and there were some rumors that he lifted himself up off the ground in one one time, but there’s. No real documented evidence of that and there are some people who think that the ancient Incas may have used hot-air balloons to create the Nazca lines.
But I mean come on. We all know what really happened there. So balloons took off in the late 1700s, but they weren’t really used for transportation per say they had they had other uses. You know pure entertainment and stunts stuff like that map makers would use it for surveying.
Scientists would use it for scientific experiments and then armies would use it for signalling and Intel gathering. In fact, in the u.s. Civil War, the Union actually had a balloon cord that was run by chief aeronaut Thaddeus SC low, which chief aeronaut has to be the coolest military title ever given.
But yeah. The use cases were a bit limited for balloons, because you couldn & # 39, t, really steer them. All you could do is just kind of go up and catch a breeze and sort of hope. It takes you where you want to go true story.
I actually proposed to my wife and a hot-air balloon. I know I’m adorable, and the guy who took us up gave me a little bit of a crash course in ballooning, and he explained that you could sort of steer the balloon by raising and lowering to different altitudes and catching different crosswinds.
In fact, he said: Albuquerque New Mexico is a really popular spot for balloonist and they have one of the biggest balloon festivals in the world, because the geography there actually allows for almost perpendicular crosswinds at different altitudes above Albuquerque.
So you could lift off from one spot and actually be able to maneuver and come back down and land right where you left from it’s, one of the few places in the world where you can do that according to the random balloon guy.
That took me out that day anyway, but ultimately, balloons are fun. Balloons are useful, but you can & # 39. T really use them as transportation because you can’t really maneuver from point to point enter the age of the dirigible.
A dirigible is a powered steerable airship and in fact the words dirigibles and airship kind of mean the same thing. They’re synonymous, but there’s. Two different types of airships blimps and Zeppelin’s.
Blimps have no rigid structure to them. The inflatable part of the blimp deflates completely when it’s, not in the air it’s also called a pressure airship, because the shape of it’s, kept by the pressure of the air inside the envelope.
Zeppelin’s are rigid airships, they have a metal framework that holds its shape, whether it’s full of gas or not, and that name is also the name of a company that made them now. There were other companies that made rigid airships, but Zeppelin was the first, so they were kind of like the Xerox of airships.
In fact, airship enthusiasts would probably correct me and say that the categories are actually rigid, airships and non rigid airships. There are also hybrid airships, but if you & # 39, ve ever wondered what the difference between a blimp and a Zeppelin is there, you go, but the originals were more aerodynamic and they use fuel driven propellers that could actually steer the dirigible to wherever you wanted To go, this was actual point to point: travel, airships, work off the basic principle of buoyancy: aka the Archimedes principle, aka, less dense air will float and if airplanes work like hydrofoils in the water, airships weren’t, basically like submarines in the sky.
So inside the airship or gas bags that hold the lifting gas, either hydrogen or helium more on that in a minute, but also ballast that hold outside here only on airships are called Bela Nets. When the airship wants to go up, it pumps out the heavier outside air and the ship rises.
Once you get to altitude, you’re, going for it pumps in the Ballon Etzel with outside air. Until you reach a balance and maintain your altitude, repellers move the airship through the air and rudders and the tail point you in the direction you want to go and then, when you & # 39, re ready to come down the Ballon Etzel with outside air, the Ship descends and the landing procedure begins and landing was a bit of a production.
Airfields had mooring mast that the airship docked with the masthead was able to swivel, so the airship could sway in the wind when more to it. But from the masthead was a mooring cable that’s pulled down to the ground.
When the ship came into dock, they basically just dropped lines down to the ground crew a dozen or so people, and they would grab the lines and tie the ship down specifically connecting the mooring cable from the nose of the ship in the cable from the masthead.
Once connected, the cable was reeled in and the ship’s, nose was guided in and the masthead anchored, but yeah it was. It was basically a bunch of dudes pulling on ropes. The first original was invented in 1852 by an Riga fard, and it used steam-powered propellers to move the thing around now later versions of his dirigible actually used hydrogen as fuel the same hydrogen that filled the envelope.
They literally just piped it down into the engine, which is madness so yeah. They actually used hydrogen instead of helium back in the day for most of these things, but the use of hydrogen actually goes way back almost at the very beginning.
In fact, the mungo PA brothers used hydrogen as a lifting gas, literally just a couple of months after they first did it with hot air. Hydrogen had just been discovered a couple of decades earlier in 1766, but yeah later on, they still used hydrogen, even though they knew it was super flammable, but helium was just discovered in 1868 and it was super expensive.
Also helium doesn’t, have the the lifting force that hydrogen has it’s got twice the atomic weight, so it’s twice as heavy, which means you need a lot more gas which makes it more expensive. So there’s that one of the early airship pioneers was Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
He formed the Zeppelin company and launched the LZ one in 1903 years before the Wright brothers first flight. By the way, the name Ferdinand von Zeppelin sounds too good to be true. His full name was count Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich Auguste Graf von Zeppelin.
He was slightly German, also the monopoly guy, the L Z, one was 128 meters in length, eleven point, seven three meters in diameter and had a volume of eleven thousand two hundred and ninety-eight cubic meters.
It had a useful lift of twelve thousand four 28 kilograms. Stacked up beside the Wright brothers first plane, the Wright Flyer, it looks like this: it’s, easy to see why the dirigible world didn & # 39, t, see airplanes as a threat, but yeah these Zeppelin & # 39.
S were huge and they captured the imagination, they were like giant whales floating in the sky and it was even more of a big deal back then I mean think about it. Today we see planes, we see helicopters up in the sky all the time they’ve, never seen anything like this before human beings were flying and they were doing it in these giant metal spaceship things, they helped inspire the Art Deco style that took Over in the early part of the 20th century, and they serve some uses in World War 1 as observation centers, but also even bombers, but it was in the transportation sector that they really shined.
For the first time, people could fly across the Atlantic. Let me rephrase that for the first time, rich people could fly across the Atlantic. A trip from Frankfurt to Lakehurst New Jersey cost $ 400 adjusted for today’s money.
It would be eight thousand four hundred and twenty-two dollars’ no ticket, but traveling on an airship was more like taking a cruise on a boat than flying in a plane. As we do today, a boat could only travel around 35 miles an hour.
An airship could travel twice as fast at that and get across the Atlantic in 2.5 days, maybe three days, whereas a cruise liner might take you around seven days, plus it was just cooler. You’re like flying over the ocean and looking out over the expanse and drinking champagne and a piano lounge.
These things had dining halls, music observation rooms, dancing and yes, even smoking rooms, but don’t worry. It was lined with asbestos. So it was totally safe. The thing is, it was luxurious, but it was sort of a fake luxury.
You know the walls were either foam or paper facades. The the the beds were, these. These little metal lined bunk beds and the chairs were usually wicker, because weight was super important. Unlike on a cruise ship, all this luxury had to float so yeah.
The piano was made out of aluminum, they had to ration water and there was only one bathroom, because water is heavy and even the salt shakers might have looked silver, but they were just like a thin coating of Chrome.
It’s still. I imagine this like gatsby esque party, with flapper girls and champagne, standing on an observation deck of an airship. Looking down over the lights of New York, City or Paris. I mean I got ta say it sounds freakin awesome, but imagine how awesome it was to them at the time nobody ever looked down on the world before you know.
We get that vantage point on Google Maps every single day we don’t. Think anything of it, but nobody had ever seen that before this was the future in just a few years before that they had ended the Great War, the airships represented peace and prosperity and a bright future for them.
Of course, the world just fell in love with them. They even used two more ships at the top of buildings. In fact, the giant mast at the top of the Empire State Building that’s, what it was made for they were originally gon na dock airships to the top of that thing, and it never worked out because it turns out winds whip around the Top of the Empire State Building around 40 miles an hour, so yeah yeah, we’re gon na, be asking people to walk out over this little gangway 102 stories up while they’re being whipped around by the wind yeah.
No thanks! There is this photo by the way you may have seen it’s, not real. This was fake, just to kind of show what it would look like a long time ago, but that didn’t ever actually happen. They tried to dock one airship with it, it failed miserably and they never tried it again.
Back in Europe, though, Germany was dominating the industry with their Zeppelin’s, but Great Britain wanted to get in on the game. They wanted to one-up the Germans. With their own luxury airship and the jewel in their crown was the r101.
They pulled out all the stops for the r101, which was meant to be the most majestic airship in the world, and they did something different, which is they didn’t. Put the gondola on the outside of the ship, but they raised it up into the envelope itself.
This makes it more aerodynamic, but it also means that the envelope needs to be bigger. Much bigger here’s, an example of how insane the construction was on the r101. So inside of the airship, there are gas bags that hold the lifting gas, in this case hydrogen, and there were 16 of them going from the back to the front, and there are 101.
So one of the problems with hydrogen is it’s? A very, very small molecule: it’s, really hard to find material that can prevent leaks and these gas bags and the material that they came up with to solve this problem.
Because reasons was ox stomachs, specifically the lining of the stomach in the small intestine and the NOx called the cecum, which is an appropriately disgusting name. Yeah, apparently, a slaughtered ox would produce about a square foot of usable cecum and the gas bags.
The lining of the gas bags was about 50,000 square feet, so hey quick math in order to line the gas bags on the inside of one airship required slaughtering 50,000 oxen. To put that in perspective, the Boeing 737 max uses only like 10,000.
Our stomachs technical hurdles abounded, they continued having leaking issues, they had to keep making it bigger until it was so large that each fin was the size of a tennis court. The exercise made engineers concerned about the strength of the frame, but they pressed forward with a big ceremonial first flight, those supposed to go all the way to India, so they ignored their repeated warnings and set sail for India on October 14th, 1929 to show off their Massive gherkin to the world Brits love showing off their gherkins.
The first stop was Paris, but just before they got there at 2:00 a.m. they encountered a storm and decided to just go ahead and push through the storm. This was the wrong decision. 75 mile-per-hour winds ripped through the exterior fabric and started to tear into the gas bags, underneath this caused the ship to lose buoyancy and dip nose.
First, it only crashed into the ground at 13 miles an hour, not a big deal, but it was just enough of a crash to cause a spark. The 16 gas bags exploded in succession going down the ship all around the cabin and quarters it went down 40 miles north of Paris and of the 54 people on board only six survived on its maiden flight.
This was the Titanic of airships by the time the fire subsided. The only thing that was left was a twisted metal frame on the ground. The British put it into their r100 program. They never made another one again and they sold that metal frame for scraps.
Actually, one of the companies that bought the scrap metal was the Zeppelin company and they put this in another airship that they were building at the time. An airship that you might have heard of the Hindenburg was the flagship of Zeppelin’s fleet and on may 6 1937.
It went down in flames while mooring at the airfield in Lakehurst New Jersey, amazingly 62 of the 97 passengers, survived only half the deaths of the r101, but the Hindenburg disaster was caught on film and broadcast over the radio by reporter Herbert Morrison.
At the time newsreels played before movies and that’s, how people got most of their news. Tv wasn’t really a thing at the time. So this horrifying footage of an airship bursting into flames was the news story of the year.
It went all over the place and it was the final nail in the coffin of airships. Besides, airplanes had come a long way in that time, and they were much faster. You know floating around in a balloon. Just didn’t, really make sense anymore, especially when that balloon could burst into flames and kill you now.
Ironically, up to this point, the Hindenburg had a perfect safety record. It had done 63 flights up to that point from Germany, mostly to the United States, but also to Brazil, and it was a gorgeous airship.
It had a massive dining room, lounge room, angled windows on both sides for a panoramic view and on both decks, a reading room, a writing room and passenger cabins with two bunks in each room. It was and remains to this day, the largest flying vehicle ever made and, of course, the Nazis who controlled Germany at the time it was a symbol of their superiority, but all the took was one spark estatic when they dropped their mooring lines to bring all that Superiority to the ground and the entire airship industry, along with it now you might be thinking if they just used helium the world might be a different place right now, but the truth of the matter is the worst airship disaster in history.
Wasn’t a helium-filled airship. It was a ship built by the US Navy. It was called the USS Akron and it was wait for it a flying aircraft carrier. Yes, it was an airship that deployed airplanes. This is what you call a really good bad idea.
It housed up to seven airplanes, including five f9c sparrowhawks that could fly over enemy territory, deploy the planes from a hangar inside the ship. The planes would go out and dock by it or shoot at enemy positions.
Then the planes would come back and docked into a trapeze that would pull them up into the hangar for repairs and refueling. It never signed a wartime action, but it flew 73 times between 1931 and 1933, but on April 4th of 1933 off the coast of New Jersey.
They hit a severe storm and the ship went down the ocean killing 73 of its 76 person crew. Now, in a cruel twist of fate, the Navy sent out ships to search for survivors, including a j-3 blimp, which also crashed and killed its two crew members, not a great day for airships, so yeah by the mid 30s.
The airships days were numbered. Airplanes had come a long way, plus the infrastructure had built up. There were airports and landing strips all over the world and from that point forward, airships were mostly just novelty things and advertising platforms like the Goodyear blimp.
But could we see a resurgence in airships? I mean technology’s, come a long way in the last 100 years and they might have a role to play. They might have some use cases that can’t be served by other platforms and there are some companies that are working on that.
One of these companies is called eros craft and they see. Airships is a great solution for cargo transportation. Eros craft is guided by his chief engineer, Igor Pasternak, who’s, been building blimps and airships since the 90s.
Yes, a concept vehicle is designed called the dragon dream and prototype by a 50 million dollar grant from the Defense Department, but it & # 39. S got some really cool features. The first is a patented system called cosh which stands for control of static heaviness and what it does is, instead of using ballast or Bala nets, to pull in heavier air to control the buoyancy.
What it actually does, is it compresses the helium into liquid form so that you can release, and you know, contract the healing as much as you need to make the thing go up and down. It also has the ability to land anywhere it doesn’t need a mooring post to dock and anchor down.
It basically has four cushions on the bottom and in those cushions they have turbo fans that can create a suction to kind of anchor it down to the ground when they want it to stay down, or it can reverse that and push it up to give it Sort of a vertical takeoff and landing capability it can travel at 120.
Knots has up to 3,000 miles of range, and the largest version can carry up to 250 tons of cargo. He especially sees they use for these airships in disaster areas. Where you know, planes can’t land and trucks might not be able to get to because they can just land wherever they want, but also he sees the possibility for fleets of these things up in the sky, moving cargo around faster and cheaper than Semi trucks, unfortunately, the dragon dream hit a snag recently when the roof collapsed on the prototype and destroyed it, but Pasternak still believes that he can get this thing off the ground.
Also lucky Martin’s, working on a prototype design called the p7 91 that has similar cargo capabilities, but maybe you’re more interested in that great gatsby drinking champagne. Looking out over Paris scenario that I was talking about earlier, because I the hell, I am well, if you & # 39, ve got Jeff Bezos money and when I go full bond villain with your own super yacht in the sky, you could check out the airlander 10, the airlander 10 offers a customizable luxury expeditionary, passenger cabin, complete with an observation, deck sleeping quarters, a kitchen, a bar TV area, everything you need for a luxury experience in the sky anywhere in the world and best of all it’s.
Thicker than a bowl of oatmeal, but in all seriousness I would, I would totally get that bad boy. I’ll, accept donations right now. Thank you, but yeah. If airships can really prove out this use case, they might have a role in the logistics of our future.
Imagine being able to deliver a 120 foot windmill blades directly to a wind farm. Instead of you know, choking up the roads with them. For example, each dragon dream vehicle could take the place of 12 semi trucks and move twice as fast.
It would clear up our roads, plus it’s possible. You could hitch a free ride by going up into the jet stream. Alright, let’s, get crazy with this. You know Amazon’s, talking about using drones to deliver packages around neighborhoods.
What if they just packed all those into an airship, floated over town and just deployed the drones, wherever they’re needed to go, drop off the things and then come back into the airship? I don’t know.
I think there’s, an argument to be made here. What do you think does the idea of somebody carrying 250 tonnes over your house sound fun to you? Would you would you like to see airships up in the sky? Do you like the idea of this luxury thing discuss I for one, think it’s, pretty cool? I have doubts as to whether or not our helium supply could keep up with that, because helium is kind of a precious resource we can’t make more of it, but there’s.
Questions around that, but I don’t know I’m down to see some of this take place over the next few years. We & # 39, ll, see what happens and by the way, the stuff that I said earlier about the r101 sounded familiar to you.
You might be familiar with the engineer guy channel bill Hammack, the guy who runs that channel. He’s done several articles on the topic, but he also wrote a book called fatal flight. The true story of Britain’s last great airship, which you can listen to inaudible.
This book goes deep into the r101 and what their hopes for it were. What some of the engineering challenges were, the problems they ran into and the personalities of the people involved. You know when I called it the Titanic of airships.
I really wasn’t kidding it’s. A super fascinating story, told by somebody who has clearly obsessed with the topic. An audiobook is read by Bill himself and if you watch his channel, you know he’s got a voice like velvet, so it’s.
Good listening, audible, of course, is the premiere audiobook platform with thousands of titles to choose from, and every genre imaginable, including audible originals, that you can’t find anywhere else.
You can listen on any device anytime and anywhere at home. The gym on your commute, if you ever commute again and hey, if you’re stuck at home, you might as well catch up on some books. Audible members can choose three titles every month, one audio book into audible, originals and you can get a free 30-day trial.
If you go to audible.com slash Joe Scott or text Joe Scott 500, 500 yeah, I know we & # 39. Ve all got a little bit of extra time on our hands. This book, I think, would be a great way to spend that time or any of the others on audible.
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