Zeppelin NT

The Zeppelin NT ("Neue Technologie", German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 for new technology) is a class of airship
An airship or dirigible is a type of aerostat or "lighter-than-air aircraft" that can be steered and propelled through the air using rudders and propellers or other thrust mechanisms...

s being manufactured since the 1990s by the German company Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH
Luftschiffbau Zeppelin
Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH is a German company which, during the early 20th century, was a leader in the design and manufacture of rigid airships, specifically of the Zeppelin type. The company was founded by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin...

 (ZLT) in Friedrichshafen
This article is about a German town. For the Danish town, see Frederikshavn, and for the Finnish town, see Fredrikshamn .Friedrichshafen is a university city on the northern side of Lake Constance in Southern Germany, near the borders with Switzerland and Austria.It is the district capital of the...

. The initial model is the NT07. The company can be considered the successor of the companies founded by Ferdinand von Zeppelin
Ferdinand von Zeppelin
Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin was a German general and later aircraft manufacturer. He founded the Zeppelin Airship company...

 which constructed and operated the very successful Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

 airships in the first third of the 20th century. There are, however, a number of notable differences between the Zeppelin NT and the airships of those days, as well as between the Zeppelin NT and usual non-rigid airships known as blimp
A blimp, or non-rigid airship, is a floating airship without an internal supporting framework or keel. A non-rigid airship differs from a semi-rigid airship and a rigid airship in that it does not have any rigid structure, neither a complete framework nor a partial keel, to help the airbag...

s. The Zeppelin NT is classified as a semi-rigid airship
Semi-rigid airship
Semi-rigid airships are airships with a partial framework. These often consist of a rigid, or occasionally, flexible, keel frame along the long axis under the aerodynamic hull envelope. The partial framework can also be located inside the hull...



The modern development and construction was financed from an endowment, initially funded with money left over from the earlier Zeppelin company, that had been under the trusteeship of the Mayor of Friedrichshafen. A stipulation on the endowment limited use of its funds to the field of airships. Over the many years, the investment value of the endowment grew to a point where the time seemed right to use it for the design, development, and construction of a new Zeppelin.

The initial design study was prepared in 1989. The ZLT was founded as a spin-off of the Zeppelin company in September 1993. It began to construct a prototype
A prototype is an early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from.The word prototype derives from the Greek πρωτότυπον , "primitive form", neutral of πρωτότυπος , "original, primitive", from πρῶτος , "first" and τύπος ,...

 in 1995. The prototype first took to the air in September 1997.

On July 2, 2000, the centennial of the first Zeppelin
A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. It was based on designs he had outlined in 1874 and detailed in 1893. His plans were reviewed by committee in 1894 and patented in the United States on 14 March 1899...

 flight, the prototype SN 01 was christened D-LZFN Friedrichshafen. Subsequently, it traveled some 3,600 km in test flights.

In 2001 the company began manufacturing the Zeppelin NT in series and began to exploit the airships commercially. The second ship SN 02 was christened D-LZZR Bodensee on August 10, 2001 and started to give joyrides five days later. By the end of that year, it had already transported 3,222 passengers, a figure that rose to about 30,000 by November 2003.


The Zeppelin NT airships constructed so far are 75 m long, with a volume of 8,225 m³. They are thus considerably smaller than the old Zeppelins, which reached a maximum volume of 200,000 m³
LZ 129 Hindenburg
LZ 129 Hindenburg was a large German commercial passenger-carrying rigid airship, the lead ship of the Hindenburg class, the longest class of flying machine and the largest airship by envelope volume...

. Furthermore, they are inflated exclusively with the non-flammable noble gas
Noble gas
The noble gases are a group of chemical elements with very similar properties: under standard conditions, they are all odorless, colorless, monatomic gases, with very low chemical reactivity...

Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...


In standard operations with a maximum payload, the gas cells do not create enough buoyancy
In physics, buoyancy is a force exerted by a fluid that opposes an object's weight. In a column of fluid, pressure increases with depth as a result of the weight of the overlying fluid. Thus a column of fluid, or an object submerged in the fluid, experiences greater pressure at the bottom of the...

 to make the whole ship "lighter-than-air." The negative buoyancy is overcome with engine power. The buoyancy can change when traveling with reduced payload and partially emptied fuel tanks, but usually the Zeppelin NT starts its journey with a net downward force of about 3,000 N (306 kg), and on long trips can end up lighter than air if a lot of fuel is used.

The Zeppelin NT is a semi-rigid airship. It is unlike both the original Zeppelins that had a rigid skeleton and non-rigid blimps. It has an internal triangular truss
In architecture and structural engineering, a truss is a structure comprising one or more triangular units constructed with straight members whose ends are connected at joints referred to as nodes. External forces and reactions to those forces are considered to act only at the nodes and result in...

 made of graphite-reinforced plastic and three longitudinal girders made of aluminium
Aluminium or aluminum is a silvery white member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances....

 which connect the triangular elements along the length of the frame. This frame holds the engines, control car and the steering fins. Additionally, this structure is tightened with aramid
Aramid fibers are a class of heat-resistant and strong synthetic fibers. They are used in aerospace and military applications, for ballistic rated body armor fabric and ballistic composites, in bicycle tires, and as an asbestos substitute. The name is a portmanteau of "aromatic polyamide"...

 cords. It weighs only about 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds).


Inside historical Zeppelins, the gas cells were separate entities from the hull. However, the hull of the Zeppelin NT serves both as the hull and as the gas cell. It is made of a three-layered laminate
A laminate is a material that can be constructed by uniting two or more layers of material together. The process of creating a laminate is lamination, which in common parlance refers to the placing of something between layers of plastic and gluing them with heat and/or pressure, usually with an...

: one gas-tight layer of Tedlar
Polyvinyl fluoride
Polyvinyl fluoride or –n– is a polymer material mainly used in flammability-lowering coating of airplane interiors and photovoltaic module backsheets. It is also used in raincoats and metal sheeting...

 (PVF), one polyester
Polyester is a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Although there are many polyesters, the term "polyester" as a specific material most commonly refers to polyethylene terephthalate...

 fabric layer to provide stability and one polyurethane
A polyurethane is any polymer composed of a chain of organic units joined by carbamate links. Polyurethane polymers are formed through step-growth polymerization, by reacting a monomer with another monomer in the presence of a catalyst.Polyurethanes are...

 layer suitable for thermic welding
Thermic welding
Thermic welding is the process of seamlessly welding streetcar and railroad tracks. It is also known as the Goldschmidt Reduction process.It was introduced by Johann Wilhelm Goldschmidt in 1895 when he patented the process in Germany under the corporate name of Goldschmidt AG...

 that serves to connect the separate laminate panels.

To preserve its outer form, a slight overpressure of about 5 mb is maintained within the hull. As in blimp
A blimp, or non-rigid airship, is a floating airship without an internal supporting framework or keel. A non-rigid airship differs from a semi-rigid airship and a rigid airship in that it does not have any rigid structure, neither a complete framework nor a partial keel, to help the airbag...

s, this pressure is kept constant by using ballonet
A Ballonet is a air-filled flexible container that is located inside the envelope of a non-rigid or semi-rigid airship. Such an airship can have one or more ballonets, commonly one fore and one aft...

s. The ballonets have a total volume of 2000 cubic metres (70,629.3 cu ft).

Propulsion and steering

A trio of Textron Lycoming IO-360 boxer aviation engines with a power of 147 kW (200 hp
Horsepower is the name of several units of measurement of power. The most common definitions equal between 735.5 and 750 watts.Horsepower was originally defined to compare the output of steam engines with the power of draft horses in continuous operation. The unit was widely adopted to measure the...

) each provide the Zeppelin NT with excellent maneuverability. Two lateral engines, equipped with tilting propellers and usually aligned horizontally, can be turned 90° upward or 30° downward. The aft engine powers a pushing propeller that can be turned 90° downward, as well as a steering propeller directed to the side and working similarly to the lateral-thrust units of some ships. The three 200 PS (197 hp) engines use aviation gasoline as their fuel source.

Instead of four rudder and elevator fins, the Zeppelin NT uses only three, which saves weight. As a side effect, the loss of one fin can be compensated with the remaining two.

The controls are implemented by fly-by-wire
Fly-by-wire is a system that replaces the conventional manual flight controls of an aircraft with an electronic interface. The movements of flight controls are converted to electronic signals transmitted by wires , and flight control computers determine how to move the actuators at each control...

 technology, with the pilot using a joystick
A joystick is an input device consisting of a stick that pivots on a base and reports its angle or direction to the device it is controlling. Joysticks, also known as 'control columns', are the principal control in the cockpit of many civilian and military aircraft, either as a center stick or...

 to steer in three dimensions.

Flying capabilities

The design currently has a range of some 900 km (500 nautical miles) and reaches top speeds of 125 km/h (70 knots or 78 mph). The standard cruising speed of 70 km/h for tourist flights can be attained using the rear propeller only. Standard operational altitude is 300 m (1000 ft), but up to 2,600 m (8,500 ft) is possible. Their maximum permitted takeoff weight is 10,690 kg, with a payload of 1,900 kg.

The Zeppelin NT is able to take-off and land vertically. Only three helpers are required on the ground.


The Zeppelin NT has a passenger capacity of 12, plus 2 crew, or the capability to lift 1,900 kg of payload. In contrast, the original Zeppelin designs carried over a hundred passengers and crew, with a nearly even ratio of passengers to crew members.

Range of application

Since August 15, 2001 the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei (German for German Zeppelin shipping company) has successfully offered joyrides with Zeppelin NT airships. The hull surfaces are marketed as advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 space. The DZR was founded as a subsidiary of the ZLG in January 2001.

The craft are also used as observation platforms for photographers and television commentators covering major events.

Due to their capability for long low-vibration flight (up to 24 hours), the ZLG also considers the airships well-suited to research missions for environmental observations, troposphere
The troposphere is the lowest portion of Earth's atmosphere. It contains approximately 80% of the atmosphere's mass and 99% of its water vapor and aerosols....

 research or prospecting natural resources.

Operational history

During the Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest, or Wiesn, is a 16–18 day beer festival held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, running from late September to the first weekend in October. It is one of the most famous events in Germany and is the world's largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year. The...

 of 2002 a Zeppelin NT was used for radio experiments in connection with the European Galileo positioning system
Galileo positioning system
Galileo is a global navigation satellite system currently being built by the European Union and European Space Agency . The €20 billion project is named after the famous Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei...

 project for the German Aerospace Center
German Aerospace Center
The German Aerospace Center is the national centre for aerospace, energy and transportation research of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has multiple locations throughout Germany. Its headquarters are located in Cologne. It is engaged in a wide range of research and development projects in...

 and the ESA.

The third Zeppelin NT SN 03 was designated D-LZZF and first flew in February 2003.

The Friedrichshafen is intended to be used for training pilots, for special flights and for presentations. All further ships will be used commercially or sold. As a tribute to the days of Zeppelin mail
Zeppelin mail
Zeppelin mail was mail carried on zeppelins, the German airships that saw civilian use from 1908 to 1939. Almost every zeppelin flight carried mail, sometimes in large quantities; the covers usually received special postmarks, and a number of nations issued postage stamps specifically intended for...

, a number of mail-carrying flights are planned.

On March 2, 2004 the ZLT sold a Zeppelin NT for the first time; SN 02 was acquired by the Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese Nippon Airship Corporation and was transferred in June 2004, and was to follow the historical route of the 1929 World Tour of the famous dirigible LZ127 Graf Zeppelin
LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin
LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was a German built and operated passenger-carrying hydrogen-filled rigid airship which operated commercially from 1928 to 1937. It was named after the German pioneer of airships, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who was a Graf or Count in the German nobility. During its operating life,...

. After problems with Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n authorities a special ship for huge parts from the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 was chartered and the Zeppelin was shipped from Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 to Japan by sea. The company used the airship mainly for joyrides and advertising.

Steve Fossett
Steve Fossett
James Stephen Fossett was an American commodities trader, businessman, and adventurer. Fossett is the first person to fly solo nonstop around the world in a balloon...

 and Paul Stroehle set the current speed record for airships over a distance of one kilometer on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 in Friedrichshafen
This article is about a German town. For the Danish town, see Frederikshavn, and for the Finnish town, see Fredrikshamn .Friedrichshafen is a university city on the northern side of Lake Constance in Southern Germany, near the borders with Switzerland and Austria.It is the district capital of the...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 with a Zeppelin NT. The new world record was set to 111.8 km/h (69.5 mph or 60.4 knots), an improvement of 19 km/h.

Starting in late 2005 the prototype Zeppelin NT, D-LZFN Friedrichshafen, was based in Jwaneng, a diamond
In mineralogy, diamond is an allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at ambient conditions...

 mining town in southern Botswana
Botswana, officially the Republic of Botswana , is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa. The citizens are referred to as "Batswana" . Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name after becoming independent within the Commonwealth on 30 September 1966...

, where it conducted an airborne geophysical survey on behalf of De Beers Prospecting Botswana. The airship was moved from Amsterdam to Cape Town by ship and then flown to Gaborone where a Lockheed Martin full tensor gravity gradiometer was installed. This instrument, owned and operated by Bell Geospace, measures changes in the Earth's gravity field associated with geological density variations. The technology is based on accelerometers and the data quality is sensitive to the turbulence and motion usually associated with fixed wing aircraft installations. The airship, flying slowly at night in relatively cool calm air, provides a very stable and vibrationally quiet platform. The resulting data is capable of revealing the rather faint gravity signals associated with Kimberlite
Kimberlite is a type of potassic volcanic rock best known for sometimes containing diamonds. It is named after the town of Kimberley in South Africa, where the discovery of an diamond in 1871 spawned a diamond rush, eventually creating the Big Hole....

 pipes buried under the Kalahari sands. This survey came to an end on 20 September 2007, when D-LZFN was irreparably damaged by a whirlwind while moored at its mast.

In January 2006 the Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH announced building a fourth Zeppelin NT07. NT07 #4 was optioned by California-based Airship Ventures
Airship Ventures
Airship Ventures Inc. is a private company offering sight-seeing rides in a 12-passenger Zeppelin NT out of a World War II United States Navy hangar at Moffett Federal Airfield near Mountain View, California....

 in Spring 2007. The new airship completed its first flight on May 21, 2008. On June 26, 2008, ZLT announced that the FAA
Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration is the national aviation authority of the United States. An agency of the United States Department of Transportation, it has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S...

 issued the type certificate
Type certificate
A Type Certificate, is awarded by aviation regulating bodies to aerospace manufacturers after it has been established that the particular design of a civil aircraft, engine, or propeller has fulfilled the regulating bodies' current prevailing airworthiness requirements for the safe conduct of...

 for the Zeppelin NT 07, allowing the airship to fly legally in the United States. Prior to the trip to the USA, the airship, registered D-LZNT, operated sightseeing and pleasure flights over eastern London and the Thames Estuary
Thames Estuary
The Thames Mouth is the estuary in which the River Thames meets the waters of the North Sea.It is not easy to define the limits of the estuary, although physically the head of Sea Reach, near Canvey Island on the Essex shore is probably the western boundary...

 from an airfield close to Upminster
Upminster is a suburban town in northeast London, England, and part of the London Borough of Havering. Located east-northeast of Charing Cross, it is one of the locally important district centres identified in the London Plan, and comprises a number of shopping streets and a large residential...

, in Essex, England, advertising Stella Artois
Stella Artois
Stella Artois is a 5% ABV lager brewed in Leuven, Belgium since 1926. In the UK, Canada and New Zealand a 4% ABV version is also available.-Production:...

 beer and the DrinkAware campaign. These flights operated between July and September 2008. The airship arrived at the Port of Beaumont
Port of Beaumont
The Port of Beaumont is a deep-water port located in Beaumont, Texas near the mouth of the Neches River.It is the fourth busiest port in the United States according to the American Association of Port Authorities and the thirty-fourth largest in the world in terms of tonnage. It is also the...

 on or about September 26, 2008. After spending three days tethered at the Southeast Texas Regional Airport
Southeast Texas Regional Airport
Jack Brooks Regional Airport , is a public airport located near Port Arthur, Texas, United States, nine miles southeast of the central business district of Beaumont and northeast of Port Arthur...

, the airship flew cross-country to its base at Moffett Federal Airfield
Moffett Federal Airfield
Moffett Federal Airfield , also known as Moffett Field, is a joint civil-military airport located between northern Mountain View and northern Sunnyvale, California, USA. The airport is near the south end of San Francisco Bay, northwest of San Jose. Formerly a United States Navy facility, the former...

Upon its arrival, the airship was given the US registration N704LZ, and was christened Eureka (after the California state motto). Airship Ventures began commercial operations in November 2008, and is currently offering flightseeing tours over the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas, operating both out of Moffett Field, and Oakland Terminal.

In May 2010, due to economic problems at Nippon Airship Corporation, the SN2 was dismantled and shipped back to Germany in parts.

In May 2011 Goodyear announced it will be replacing its fleet of blimps with three Zeppelin NT airships


ZLT has also announced plans to build a larger, 19 seat aircraft, called the NT14. The "14" comes from the 14,000 cubic meters of envelope volume.


See also

  • Goodyear Blimp
    Goodyear Blimp
    The Goodyear Blimp is the collective name for a fleet of blimps operated by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for advertising purposes and for use as a television camera platform for aerial views of sporting events...

  • Buoyancy compensator (aviation)
    Buoyancy compensator (aviation)
    The static buoyancy of airships during a trip is not constant. It is therefore necessary to take measures to control the buoyancy and thus the altitude, the so-called buoyancy compensation.-Changes which have an effect on buoyancy:...

External links

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