An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history
Sure, you can think of history as the grand narrative of human progress—but the past is also full of examples of really dumb ideas. Here’s one we can’t get over: the rigid airship, better known as the Zeppelin after a particularly successful design. Invented in Germany in the late 19th century, Zeppelins were hailed as a milestone of air travel. They were also completely ridiculous. Here’s why.
You could travel faster in your car
Why do people subject themselves to air travel at all? Simple: planes get us where we need to go as quickly as possible. You might think that there was a similar rationale behind Zeppelins and other rigid airships—but you’d be dead wrong. The max speed of the classic Graf Zeppelin? a staggering 80 miles per hour. The famous Hindenburg was a bit better—at 84 MPH. Sure, the fact that it could cross the Atlantic in two and a half days was impressive compared with the five days required for an ocean liner trip, but, as I hope my next two points will make clear, that’s still way too long to allow yourself to be inside a Zeppelin.
They were filled with (extremely) flammable gas
You’ve heard about the 1937 Hindenburg disaster (pictured above), but that was scarcely the only time an airship burst into flames. Some, like the Imperial German Navy L 10, exploded after being struck by lightning. Others went up in flames, killing all crew and passengers, for no apparent reason. And let’s not forget that Zeppelins were a staple method of military transport, including air raids, during WWI, meaning they were prime targets for enemy fire: slow-moving, enormous, and a single spark could take the whole thing down.
A gust of wind could flip a stationary Zeppelin upright
This 1927 photograph of the USS Los Angeles shows one of the many hazards of Zeppelin travel: while docked, a gust of wind caused the airship’s tail to rise straight up in the air, a “sudden increase in lift which was not controllable.” If that’s not scary enough on its own, check out the interior of a passenger cabin, which (unsurprisingly for the 1920s) had nary a seatbelt in sight. Ouch.
Winds could really mess with a Zeppelin even when they didn’t turn them on end: many of history’s airship disasters involved a Zeppelin simply floating away uncontrollably, with or without people inside.
- The Ancient Romans Punished Dad-Killers In a Really Weird Way
- The History of Islam's Golden Age: Part 3
- France Has Her Own Lady Liberty, and Her Name is Marianne
- 5 Times Carrie Fisher Made Hollywood History
- This Philosopher Chose Relationships with Poodles Over People
- The History of Hanukkah Gelt
Follow @historybuffcom on Twitter .
SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite
SpaceX is launching a secretive mission this month. The mission, shrouded in secrecy, has some considering it may be for the CIA or the NSA.
This is how the Air Force will use prop planes on high-tech battlefields
The Air Force is looking toward a light-attack aircraft program, known as OA-X, to produce a plane that meets its needs and gets the job done.
A retired SEAL commander on how to stop thinking and 'get after it' every day
This former Navy commander has some excellent advice on how to jump start your day, and "get some" in order to make it as productive as possible.
Marines return to battle in 'old stomping grounds'
The Marines recall their "old stomping grounds" as they return to Fallujah and the surround areas of Al Anbar Province to battle a new enemy.
How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
China has stepped up it's drone game, and even though United States technology can still compete, China's drones are kind of really in demand.
That time two countries' Special Forces squared off in combat
In an area the size of the Falkland Islands, British and Argentine special operators were bound to run into each other at some point – a lot.
5 times pilots got in trouble for having fun in the sky
When pilots decide to do some fancy flying in their high-performance fighters, it can land them in trouble once they're back on the ground.
This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers 'devils in baggy pants'
"American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night," wrote one German commander.
9 ISIS weapon fails that you have to see to believe
Many bad guys just want record themselves laying rounds down range for social media purposes — and we're glad they did. Laugh away, America!