Count Zeppelin in the command gondola of his airship
Photo: CC0, Wikimedia Commons
While Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin only began building the “flying cigars” after his military career ended, the dream had accompanied him his entire life. In 1881 he officially retired from his military career and finally began to pursue his vision: the construction of an airship.
He received a patent for a “steerable airship-train” and soon founded the Society for the Promotion of Airship Flight. At first, he was ridiculed by the general public for his plans, often mocked as the “Fool from Lake Constance.” But after more Germans began to share his passionate vision, he increasingly received donations for his project. The once frowned-upon inventor developed into an impressive pioneer of aviation technology.
Dramatic highs and lows: the beginnings of airship travel
And so it was not long before the first rigid airship was constructed near Friedrichshafen. The maiden voyage of the LZ-1 in the summer of 1900, however, was only of very short duration. After just 20 minutes, the 128 m long zeppelin was forced to make an emergency landing.
Although the successors of the first Zeppelin covered ever-longer distances, reaching the North and South Poles, for example, or flying across the Atlantic, bad weather zones and technical deficits repeatedly led to dramatic accidents. The “Hindenburg” fire in Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1936, where 36 people died, is probably the biggest catastrophe in the history of the aviation giants.