Zeppelin NT

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Zeppelin NT
Zeppellin NT amk.JPG
Zeppelin NT D–LZZF in flight (2010)
Role Utility airship
National origin Germany
Manufacturer Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik
First flight September 1997
Number built 5
View from cockpit of a Zeppelin NT
Instrument Panel of Zeppelin NT D–LZZR (2003)

The Zeppelin NT ("Neue Technologie", German for new technology) is a class of helium-filled airships being manufactured since the 1990s by the German company Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH (ZLT) in Friedrichshafen.[1] The initial model is the NT07. The company considers itself the successor of the companies founded by Ferdinand von Zeppelin which constructed and operated the very successful Zeppelin 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 blimps. The Zeppelin NT is classified as a semi-rigid airship.[2]


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 by Joseph A. Dick [1], brought to the attention of Wolfgang von Zeppeling by Ian Alexander, formerly of Wren Skyships, Ltd. The design study suggested that the lessons learned at Wren Skyships, Airship Industries, and several other antecedent efforts should simply defer to known designs and manufacturing capabilities still residing within the Zeppelin organization - the original purpose of the effort being directed toward tourism, or "A Zeppelin for Friedrichshafen."

It is important to note that in 1989, there was virtually no "Zeppelin" presence in Friedricshafen. At that time there was merely a tourist boat on the "Bodensee" (Lake Constance) bearing the name "Graf Zeppelin". The prospect of a "retro" (what would be considered "steampunk") yet loyal copy of a Zeppelin for tourism purposes was considered, by Wolfgang von Zeppelin and Ian Alexander, a worthy enterprise.

The directors of Lufftschiffbau-Zeppelin GmbH, along with the presiding Oberburgermeister of Friedricshafen, Bernd Wiedmann, (the city holding in trust funds directed by the will of Ferdinand von Zeppelin solely for the purpose of continuing his original efforts aerial navigation) were averse to any projects utilising the funds, as might be expected. For instance, an executive of the company had written and published - in a small private effort - a book entitled, "Zeppelin: Ein Sackgasse im Himmel", or, in English, "Zeppelin: A Dead-End in Heaven". Despite the prevailing doubt, the idea of a Zeppelin for Friedrichshafen was given the go-ahead to proceed.

At this point, an engineer in the employ of Dornier (a former division of the Zeppelin organisation) came forward with a Neu Technologie or "new technology" airship, promising a multiplicity of promised advancements - few of which were delivered in retrospect. [references will be provided] What was originally conceived as a project for a single or perhaps pair of tourist attraction airships in an era long before what is today referred to as "steam punk", was overridden by modern unconsidered pride of place - the idea that the abilities of the "now" is in some way technologically and otherwise superior to the "then".

As a result, the ZLT was founded by the Zeppelin company. Rather than build a known design (an updated copy of the LZ-120/121 that could carry 20-30 passengers), a much-touted advancement in technology was pursued. By 1995 a "prototype" had at long last, and at expenditures far exceeding all original estimates, taken shape. The prototype first took to the air in September 1997 - nearly a decade after the origial proposal, and despite the Zeppelin company's historic capability to produce working technology - including mass-production of airships in WWI. As a result of over-zealous predictions, as has often accompanied politically affilitated airship projects in the past, the prototype missed its target performance and had to be cut and extended to meet its remaining performance specifiactions.

On July 2, 2000, the centennial of the first Zeppelin 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.


Zeppelin NT D–LZZF during boarding (2010)

The Zeppelin NT airships constructed so far[when?] are 75 metres (246 ft) long, with a volume of 8,225 cubic metres (290,500 cu ft).[1] They are thus considerably smaller than the old Zeppelins, which reached a maximum volume of 200,000 m3 (7,100,000 cu ft), such as the LZ 129 Hindenburg. Furthermore, they are inflated exclusively with the non-flammable noble gas helium, rather than with hydrogen.

In standard operations with a maximum payload, the gas cells do not create enough buoyancy 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 newtons (670 lbf); on long trips, it can become 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 made of graphite-reinforced plastic and three longitudinal girders made of aluminium 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 cords. It weighs only about 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb).


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: one gas-tight layer of Tedlar (PVF), one polyester fabric layer to provide stability and one polyurethane layer suitable for thermic welding that serves to connect the separate laminate panels.

To preserve its outer form, a slight overpressure of about 5 millibars (0.073 psi) is maintained within the hull. As in blimps, this pressure is kept constant by using ballonets. The ballonets have a total volume of 2,000 cubic metres (71,000 cu ft).

Propulsion and steering[edit]

Side thrusters visible on approach

Power is provided by a trio of 147-kilowatt (197 hp) Textron Lycoming IO-360 boxer aviation engines, each provide the Zeppelin NT with maneuverability. The two lateral engines are equipped with tilting propellers and usually aligned horizontally, but 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 engines are fueled by aviation gasoline.[3]

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 technology, with the pilot using a joystick to steer in three dimensions.

Flying capabilities[edit]

The design currently has a range of some 900 kilometres (560 mi) and reaches top speeds of 125 kilometres per hour (78 mph). The standard cruising speed of 70 km/h (43 mph) for tourist flights can be attained using the rear propeller only. Standard operational altitude is 300 m (980 ft), but up to 2,600 m (8,500 ft) is possible. Their maximum permitted takeoff weight is 10,960 kilograms (24,160 lb), with a payload of 1,900 kg (4,200 lb).

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 (4,200 lb) 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.[4]

The newest model also features seatbelts for passengers and a restroom in the rear.[5]

Range of application[edit]

The DLR Zeppelin NT was used to study traffic patterns

The Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei (German for German Zeppelin shipping company) has offered tours with Zeppelin NT airships since August 15, 2001. The hull surfaces are used for advertising. ZLG founded DZR as a subsidiary in January 2001.

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

Due to their capability for low-vibration flight (for up to 24 hours), ZLG considers the airships suitable for research missions for environmental observations, troposphere research and natural resources prospecting.

Operational history[edit]

Five Zeppelin NTs have been built to date.

D-LZFN, Friedrichshafen[edit]

The prototype Zeppelin NT, D-LZFN, Friedrichshafen, was intended to be used for training pilots, for special flights and for presentations. During the Oktoberfest of 2002 a Zeppelin NT was used for radio experiments in connection with the European Galileo positioning system project for the German Aerospace Center and the ESA. It was intended that all further ships would be used commercially or sold. As a tribute to the days of Zeppelin mail, a number of mail-carrying flights were planned. Steve Fossett and Paul Stroehle set the current speed record for airships over a distance of one kilometer on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 in Friedrichshafen, Germany with a Zeppelin NT. The new world record was set to 111.8 kilometres per hour (69.5 mph), an improvement of 19 km/h.

Starting in late 2005 the Friedrichshafen was based in Jwaneng, a diamond mining town in southern Botswana, 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 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 2012, a replacement airship, also designated D-LZFN, began its operations.[6]

D-LZZR, Bodensee[edit]

The second Zeppelin NT and first production model (SN 02) was named D-LZZR Bodensee and began the first commercial tourist operations on August 15, 2001 by Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei (DZR). On March 2, 2004 the DZR sold it to Nippon Airship Corporation in Japan. Transferred in June 2004, it was to have followed the historical route of the 1929 World Tour of the famous dirigible LZ127 Graf Zeppelin. After problems with Russian authorities, a special ship for huge parts from the Netherlands was chartered and the Zeppelin was shipped from Italy to Japan by sea.[7] The company used the airship mainly for tours and advertising. In May 2010, due to economic problems at Nippon Airship Corporation, the SN 02 was shipped back to Germany. The craft regained her old name Bodensee and resumed passenger operations in 2012.[8]

D-LZZF, Baden-Württemberg[edit]

The third Zeppelin NT (SN03) and second production model, designated D-LZZF, Baden-Württemberg, first flew in February 2003. It is currently flown in revenue passenger service by the DZR.[8] It was painted in Goodyear colors for the summer season 2010 to promote a new joint venture between Goodyear and the Zeppelin Luftschiffbau, the first in 70 years.[9]

D-LZNT, Eureka[edit]

In January 2006 the Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH announced construction of a fourth Zeppelin NT07. It was optioned by California-based Airship Ventures in Spring 2007.[10] The new airship completed its first flight on May 21, 2008.[11] On June 26, 2008, ZLT announced that the FAA issued the type certificate 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 from an airfield close to Upminster, in Essex, England, advertising Stella Artois beer and the DrinkAware campaign. These flights operated between July and September 2008. The airship arrived at the Port of Beaumont on or about September 26, 2008. After spending three days tethered at the Southeast Texas Regional Airport, the airship flew cross-country to its base at Moffett Federal Airfield.[12] [13] 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 offered flightseeing tours over the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas, operating both out of Moffett Field, and Oakland Terminal. On November 14, 2012, Airship Ventures ceased operations and grounded Eureka.


Goodyear confirmed on 3 May 2011, that they will reinstate their long lost partnership with Zeppelin. Goodyear has ordered three Zeppelin NT LZ N07-101 models with plans to commence operation in January 2014.[14][15] The Zeppelin NT will be the successor to the current GZ-20 in Goodyear airship advertising. The first one was unveiled on March 14, 2014 and will most likely be stationed near Florida.[16] The second zeppelin is expected in 2015, and be stationed in California in 2016. The third zeppelin will be stationed in Akron, Ohio in 2018.[17]


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.[18]


Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004[19]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Capacity: 12 passengers or 1,900 kg (4188 lb) payload
  • Length: 75.00 m (246 ft 0¾ in)
  • Diameter: 14.16 m (46 ft 5½ in)
  • Width: 19.50[20] m (63 ft 11¾ in)
  • Height: 17.40 m (57 ft 1 in)
  • Volume: 8,255 m3 (290,450 ft3)
  • Gross weight: 10,690 kg (23,567 lb)
  • Powerplant: 3 × Textron Lycoming IO-360 air-cooled flat-four, 149 kW (200 hp) each each


  • Maximum speed: 125 km/h (77 mph)
  • Cruising speed: 115 km/h (71 mph)
  • Range: 900 km (559 miles)
  • Endurance: 24 hours
  • Service ceiling: 2,600 m (8,530 ft)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH (2008). "Das Luftschiff" (– Scholar search). [dead link]
  2. ^ FAQs - Zeppelin vs. blimp (retrieved 13 January 2011)
  3. ^ Manufacturer's FAQ's
  4. ^ (checked 14 January 2011)
  5. ^ http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/03/travel/goodyear-zeppelin-blimp/index.html?hpt=hp_c4
  6. ^ "Picture of the Zeppelin LZ N07-100 Airship aircraft". Retrieved July 18, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Von der ersten Idee bis zur Serienproduktion – Die chronologische Entwicklung des Zeppelin NT Projektes". Zeppelin Luftschiffteknik (in German). January 26, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b History of the Zeppelin NT, Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH & CO KG GmbH, 2011
  9. ^ Airliners.net
  10. ^ Press release on NT #4 option, Air Ship Ventures, June 25, 2007 .
  11. ^ Press release, Air Ship Ventures, 2008-05-21 .
  12. ^ Airship to make appearance in Beaumont, Beaumont Enterprise, 2008-12-08 .
  13. ^ "Zeppelin revival over skies of San Francisco". USA Today. June 22, 2007. 
  14. ^ "Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik Lands Largest Contract in its History" (Press release). Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei GmbH. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  15. ^ Goodyear: Zeppelins return at last, UK: The Register, 2011-05-04 
  16. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (March 14, 2014). "Goodyear unveils next-gen blimp, first in 45 years". CNET. Retrieved March 15, 2014. 
  17. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (July 13, 2013). "Goodyear bids goodbye to blimps, says hello to zeppelins". CNET. Retrieved March 15, 2014. 
  18. ^ http://www.zeppelinflug.de/dateien/pressemitteilungen/E/newairship.pdf
  19. ^ Jackson 2003, pp. 764–765.
  20. ^ maximum width
  • Jackson, Paul. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group, 2003. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5.
  • Sträter, Bernd. Zeppelin NT, in: Khoury, G.A.: Airship Technology. Cambridge, 2nd Edition, 2012 pp. 547–576. ISBN 978-1107019706.

External links[edit]