Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The lost cathedrals of the sky: a heartfelt lament

I recently read a short article by Len Deighton entitled The Lost Cathedrals of the Sky: A heartfelt lament, the article was printed in the Mail of Sunday magazine - LIVE on Sunday June 13th and initially talked about a meeting between Len Deighton and Hans Von Schiller, an airship captain who commanded the Graf Zeppelin from 1935 to 1937.

It was an interesting article that discussed how these huge 'cathedrals of the sky' are no longer available for us to enjoy and how it is very unlikely that we will ever see anything like them again. One quote from the article; 'The expense of lighter-than-air craft for long-distance travel is prohibitive. It costs as much to design and build a rigid airship as to buy a Boeing airliner. The former carries 20 people at about 75mph - this speed is unlikely to increase very much - and the latter hundreds of passengers at over 500mph. In the time an Airship crosses the Atlantic the Boeing completed many round trips, one has a crew of 40, the other a crew of 10............'

The article went on to list the achievement of the Airship industry and how these huge monster of the air are no longer with us, as Len states; 'Quite possibly the greatest engineering feat of modern times - the Zeppelin still has a magic that aeroplanes cannot replace.'

Some years ago I worked for an alcoholic drinks company and one of my trade customers was Charles Wells, based in Bedford. At the time Chas. Wells Brewery were using the smaller Blimp airships based at Cardington as an advertising medium and I was invited to go up in one of the promotional/test flights. As you can imagine I was thrilled to be invited, but on every occasion I visited the airships were grounded due to poor weather or some such issue and I never got around to taking up the offer.

There are many 'Special Occasion' presents or treats that you can now indulge yourself with, days out at a racing track, driving a steam train (something that I did on a Narrow Gauge engine at Amberley Outdoor Museum), but the thought of not being able to experience the thrill of an Airship trip is one that I do regret. I know that there are still operational Airships/Blimps and some still offer personalised trips, but even the thought of not being able to see a Zeppelin, sailing majestically through the sky is a regret I think I will always have.



Ogrefencer said...

Hi Tony,

I absolutely agree with you about sheer majesty of those flying leviathans and it was in part due to my fondness for them that the Ottoman Turkish Air Fleet for Aeronef is primarily dirigible based. Michael Moorcock’s Warlord of the Air and The Steel Tsar give some great descriptions of these being used in combat which is hugely inspirational and the book I mentioned in a recent post on my own blog is a gem if you are interested in dirigibles. I jokingly suggested at my club that scratchbuilding one from a couple of 1 ½ litre plastic fizzy drink bottles COULD be done………………………………..just not by me…………………………;-)

All the best,


commanderroj said...

I've often wondered if they might make a re-appearance, as cruise liners for the very, very rich and idle. Then speed only need be comparable with cruise ships (favourable) and what cruise ship could compete with that view or cruise over land?

Pablo J. Álvarez said...

Today, we are more near to see a dirigible than twenty years ago. The dirigibe is the new cheapest satelite. In other hand, the use like a cruiser for a travel is more dificult. See this news: