explode or catch fire?
No. We use Helium as our lifting gas, which is completely inert
and non-flammable. (In the old days, ships like the Hindenburg
were filled with hydrogen which did burn).
What happens if
someone shoots at the airship ?
Because the airship is filled with such a huge volume of gas
(about 250,000 cubic feet) and under very low pressure, gas will
only leak out at a very slow rate.
The British Ministry of Defence fired many hundreds of bullets
into an airship envelope during tests in 1994. It still took
many hours to deflate and land.
Do you deflate the envelope ?
No. We hardly ever deflate, unless there is an emergency.
Normally, the envelope lasts up to 10 years and during that time
we continually check and purify the helium levels and the
pressure. Occasionally we "top up" the helium if there is some
leakage during the year.
Is the airship
affected by winds or bad weather ?
Like any aircraft, the airship is affected by weather. Normally,
we would not want to take off or land in winds exceeding 30
knots. Roughly speaking we would operate in conditions similar
to those of a helicopter.
While on the mooring mast, we can sustain winds up to 100 knots.
Although we can fly in rain or bad weather, and we can operate
during a storm safely (because the airship is a buoyant
vehicle), we would rather not as it becomes uncomfortable for
the crew and passengers.
What happens if
the engines stop ?
The airship would "free balloon". It is a buoyant vehicle and is
kept safely aloft by the helium in the envelope. If we lost all
power, the pilot is trained to descend carefully, as if he were
flying a balloon.
How many pilots
and crew are needed to operate the airship ?
We fly with two pilots at all times. We have a crew of up to 20
people, which includes extra pilots, engineers, mechanics and
Do you need a hangar ?
We only need a hangar about twice a year, for maintenance
checks. Normally, the ship is kept outside, day and night, on
tour all over the country for 10 months of the year.
What is the
difference between a rigid, semi-rigid, and non-rigid airship ?
All airships use an envelope (balloon-like bag of gas) to lift
the airship. Some used a metal "skeleton" or frame inside the
envelope to give shape to the ship; these were called rigid
airships, and examples included the R100 and R101 in England,
the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg in Germany and the Akron, Macon
and Los Angeles in the USA.
Non-rigid airships (sometimes called "blimps") use no frame
inside, but keep their shape by virtue of the design of the
envelope and the gas pressure. This allows for great flexibility
in the envelope or "hull" of the ship, which can more easily
absorb stresses - bending and flexing, during flight and landing
in all sorts of weather.
Semi-rigid airships are like a non-rigid with a "keel" along the
bottom of the envelope to help spread the load of the gondola
(or cabin) more evenly through the envelope.
Due to strong, lightweight materials for envelopes and gondolas
developed since the 1970’s, virtually all airships today are
Is a "dirigeable"
Yes, the word "dirigeable" is derived from the French word
meaning steerable. As the first time airships had to be balloons
- but steerable balloons - they were called "dirigeables". All
airships are dirigeables.
Is the envelope
divided into many compartments ?
Most large modern airships only divide the envelope into three
main compartments - two are filled with air (called "ballonets")
and a large one filled with helium.
How long can an airship stay aloft ?
Our airships could stay aloft, without refueling, for up to 24
hours. With extra tanks, one of our Skyships flew for 52 hours
without refueling in 1990.
How high can the
Our airships normally operate at around 1,500 to 3,000 feet. We
can, however, go up to 8,000 but the payload is reduced.
How fast does the airship go?
We normally cruise around 30 to 50 mph., but we can go up to 70
mph (or faster, if we have a tailwind!).
While cruising at 30 knots, the Skyship consumes 8 gallons (48
lbs.) of fuel per hour. During a week of operations, the Skyship
consumes less fuel than a 767 uses to simply move away from it's
gate to a runway!!