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300- Airships and the Future that Never Was

2018-03-27 | 🔗

They are hulking, but graceful -- human-made whales that float in the air. For over a century, lighter-than-air vehicles have captured the public imagination, playing a recurring role in our dreams of alternate realities and futures that might have been. In these visions, cargo and passengers traverse the globe in smoothly gliding aircraft, then dock elegantly at the mooring towers on top of Art Deco skyscrapers.

Today, blimps are mostly just PR gimmicks, but for 100 years, lighter-than-air crafts were seriously considered as the perfect design solution for all kinds of problems, at least in theory. And despite setbacks and failures, people just wouldn’t give up on the promise of airships.

The most promising (and most opulent) rigid airship of the 1920s era was Britain’s R101 (the R stands for rigid) and its rise and dramatic fall is the primary subject of engineering expert Bill Hammack’s new book about Britain’s last great airship, called Fatal Flight.

Airships and the Future that Never Was

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman law, They're fucking but graceful human made whales that float in the air, for over one hundred years later than air aircraft have fast names and they have this recurring. Storing role nor dreams of an alternate reality of a future that might have been were, cargo and passenger has traversed the globe in a civilised fashion. In doubt, elegantly on the morning towers. On top of our deco skyscrapers
have you seen one in real life? It was likely blimp emblazoned with the Goodyear logo. Blimp is a non rigid airship, meaning there's no structure inside the bullet. Mr Bloom, the shape is maintained by the pressure of the lifting gas inside. Then you had a little cockpit engines, letters on the outside of that big balloon to make it fly. Today's glimpse are basically cute pr novelties, for around one hundred years later than air aircraft were seriously proposed. As the perfect design solution for all kinds of problems even though none of these proposals actually happened, people just couldn't give up on the promise of air ships in the nineties there was a company called sky station. They raise some four point two bill. You're, only solicited it to put two hundred and fifty and ten equipped airships today, the internet service. This is bill. Hammock he's the engineer guy on Youtube in an airship enthusiast,
is. There was the british and arctic survey. They revealed a hole in the ozone layer over the South Pole, and so pretty soon, professor suggested setting glimpse the dangled electrical wires to Zaparos zoning chemicals. Then, in the seventies they were supposed to help developing nations using a hybrid blimp to usher, those nations and new twentieth century no need for roads, no need for railroads and Tunnel bridges, but just to lift stuff in in activities and Sixtys nuclear powered airship with unlimited energy and an unlimited capacity for work were proposed in the twenty cent thirty's. They were to fulfil imperial ambitions, both Germany and the British, we're looking for that and the Americans to dad real ambitions in the Philippines of all those failed attempts to realise the full potential of airships. It was those imperial rigid, airships, heavily developed in the twenties and thirties. There came the closest to actually changing the world. Then airship you have a metal framework and
houses, gas bags, lift the ship. Those gas bags are arranged in the metal. Scaffolding like peas in a pot and then a cloth cover is stretched over that emit cloth cover is not airtight; it protects the gas bags from whether underneath the fabric cover are not just gas bags cause it's not a pressure vessel. They are able to build things inside the airship, like crew quarters, dining room, lounges all built into the metal framework so people move around inside the thing that you might think of as the balloon, but it's not really a balloon, and that structure, enables an airship for travel faster, little blimp, because the force of the way for example, with form the nose of a blimp, and it also allows the ship to be built much much. Bigger you may be heard the term dirigible, which has, since the french name for an airship or zeppa which is a german company that makes airships of like the clean acts or mandate of the airship world, but the proper term as generic and boring as it sounds, is airship
the most promising most argument, Did airship of its time and untold modernizing twenties here was Britain's are one oh won. The are there stands for rigid, be rise in dramatic fall of Britain's Lasserate. Airship is the primary subject: a bill him Ex New book called fatal flight, spoiler alert when it comes to the dream of airships dominating the skies. The catastrophic in very public hindenburg disaster may have been the final nail in the coffin. There was the crash a bar one or one that built the coffin. Or when a one was supposed to connect the global british Empire images, The fly from London to Karachi in five days, that's ten days fast than by sea. Taken a plain that distance took sixteen days because planes had to stop so often to refuel air it could also carry thirty to forty times the cargo of aeroplanes, airships Joe
made so much sense for an empire was reach exceeded its grasp, so great built are one or one and are one hundred which was its sister ship that was supposed to go to Canada. In back as the first too rigid ships in a fleet That would give the crown dominance over this guy's to match its centuries. Dominance of the seas. Airship is conceptually quite simple, but it still in engineering marvel it's a gargantuan cigar, shaped math equation, balancing live on one side of the equation and weight on the other minimizing the weight of the airship was always a challenge, there's that rigid metal framework- and that is one of the most difficult parts, because that has to be lightweight yet strong. Yet our Wanna one was supposed to match the sturdy luxury of a high end ocean liner. Countries like China, there was trimmed with royal blue and silver salt Eggers and crystal glasses and small. But
dishes, but to allow for those essential refinements. Everything else could only have the thinnest veneer of opulence because they needed everything to weigh as little as possible. One person described it when they touch the ceiling is like a piece of stage scenery. All the walls were actually fabric. Pillars in the lounge were made from also covered with metal. The tables were also Bolsa, and the chairs were made of the lightest. Kane What kind of an illusion the solidity of the shed, because you just Couldn'T- afford to lift tons and tons of stuff on the other side of the equation is left. You get lived pumping in gas, that's lighter than air. In the case of our when a one the gas they used was hydrogen will flammable you seems like a very poor choice. It was for Marshall airship the only choice, his hydrogen instead of helium, which is non flammable because the purpose of ship, like our when a one was to transport, cargo and helium, is
of heavier and provides less lift than hydrogen. What Interested in is the payload that you can lift. So if you subtract all of the way that you have to live the rigid ship, the gas bags, the water the personnel in a ship like our Wanna one. If you filled it with helium, you would not. Have enough left to lift the ship the flexibility of hydrogen was indeed a concern in airships. Fine engineers and crew were habituated to its dangers. Much like we're habituated to the dangers of combustion engines. Today they felt that you just take. The proper precautions engineer, production, dont, light a match and look in your gas thanking your car when you're done, I've been around with something highly flammable all the time right. Now you get the proper you during solutions and controls to do it. The other reason by helium? Wasn't an option on commercial airships was the cost helium at that time? produced in the- U S its, it comes from natural gas that required expensive, distant
action plans and most of the helium is in places like Kansas in Oklahoma and Texas, so they would have to pay for it to be imported. Britain. Instead, you can make hydrogen onsite very cheaply almost one when hundreds of the cost of helium That was never really. You know option, never really a considered. The gas bags contain the hydrogen Her own engineering marvel its interest. Bags because you have a problem in that hydrogen wants to permeate the small molecule likes problem in that hydrogen. So you, we had a small molecule what likes to go through things, so you need something that very strong. That is impossible all to hydrogen or largely impermeable, and that is lightweight. And so they tried things like rubber gelatin glycerine, something called Viscose, which is a synthetic fabric, its quota but latex, but they are failed. When we're not like to discuss a few crumpled up, you could not unkindly, we just crack, so they used in this.
Done me to this day. The intestines of an legally, the oxen test, Islam with a very fine membrane. It's called the seek and its great inflexible and regions seems only slowly through it. Oxen Persons are nearly be perfect material, except for the sun. Does he come an ox? Is about thirty inches bites six inches one little over a square foot and yet are those gas bags. If you laid out, is thirty thousand square feet so to create one of these gas bags, you would use fifty thousand of these entrails or so vectors of over, we have oxen. Intestines are needed too create the fifteen gas bags for our when one and it was fairly grisly work. They delivered from slaughterhouses in Argentina only some of the animals barrels of these and then they would scrape them and go through this process to prepare them and eventually to glue them together and
Your question, fifty thousand ox intestines even once cured entreated to make them into gas, backs, do kind of steak. Did they did. Apparently, if you were up in the airship, you would smell. You know what kind of an animal smell muskie musty smell, also because the cloth cover didn't allow light in yeah or when a one had a few test flights in and around its hangar outside London, to great fanfare, in fact bill him surmises that the focus on pr and fanfare, rather than more rigorous and liberty of testing led to that strategy that was about to come on the ships. First attempted fight to India in nineteen thirty had left and October. Fourth, about six thirty at night about fifty four people, board. Most of them work the relation ports, but somewhere observers and some were dignitaries so travelled across England travelled across the channel into France, and there were the bruising winds just it.
When so fiercely. Ground. Speed was only thirty miles per hour or so, and in a few minutes past two. It was about forty miles or sixty four kilometers north of Paris and a kind of chopped should the turbulent hair flying at about twelve hundred free movie up and down a couple of hundred feet and the top cover ripped open, The top cover was weak. It was one of the weakest parts of the ship, then at that point the gas bags which are made of these very thin intestines were exposed to reign. The brain pelted, the gas bags there was of decreasing, lift, may be dropped, two five hundred feet or so and the control car, and no one knows why today signal for the engine power to be cut off and, of course it lost all dynamic lifted that point and it drove no. First, the ground slid into a grove of Hazel and oak trees and burst into flame theirs.
Debate as to why it burst into flames, though hammock thinks the fire might have been caused by calcium, falsified flares that were kept in the control car, though, ignite when water hit them and, of course, that ignited the hydrogen at that point, everything became charred. Only six people survived it. The ground was littered with these sad everyday things mean suitcases, fur lined boot, shard, shading, brushes, brushes, ten of cigarettes, use a ticking watch, still their tens of problems with its juice legally, and then it was very quiet and all you could hear was the hiss of the rain has hit the hot metal. Evaporated. The wreckage had barely cooled when the british government halted their airship programme for good. It was almost immediate, are one
hundred had flown to Montreal and back then it was in a shed and it never flew again. They eventually steamroller are one hundred sold sum of the parts for scraps Some people wanted souvenirs. Even though are one a one was completely destroyed in the french countryside. The boy find remains, did float in the sky once again, at least for a little while. Well, the wreckage of that ship was cut up into pieces shipped back in December to Great Britain, and it went to somebody who who takes scrap metal and then apparently, according to a newspaper account, it was sold to the Zeppelin Company and they use part of that mental demanding work because of the romanticism wrapped up in airships their flexibility. When it comes to moving huge cargo in the vote. That role very little infrastructure to support their operation. The hope that airships we'll make a return has now
we're gone way Emily the question a lot, you know our airships gonna come back and with new materials from the reason why they don't come back. Is this fiery disaster legacy, which I am perpetuating right now. What politician once too to vote in an airship and in inhabit crash in some ways about you know, didn't you know about the Hindenburg right now. I would not. This isn't quite fair. If you Because I'm, u like the graphs Dublin, which was a contemporary of our when a one in a predecessor to the Hindenburg It was in service for nine years. He crossed the Atlantic a hundred and forty four times. Sixteen thousand have you ever to exceed one million flight miles and certain navigated the globe in just twenty one day. So there is another history back their assess it. Globe in just twenty one days. So there is, you know another history back there that says that these things can be made and can be made well.
At this point, the airplane has had a century's worth of development, inefficiency, speed and safety, so that the knee for the airship has been largely eliminated but passed as president. Enterprising engineer is in a room full of venture capitalists. Right now, try to convince them that Johnny airships on a solution to some pressing problem in the meantime, the airship continue on in science fiction stories. As this quick and easy visual q, there in a world that's like ours, but somehow more wondrous
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became one of the most memorable recordings in broadcast history. A people staff here had never heard it before, which totally shocked me. So I went into play. Here. You mine Be able to make out all the words but Morrison's emotions come through loud and clear, during the reign of Ghana ran, has set up a lot of this model for the future. That's enough in favour. Some sentiment. I dont, get it by making it it rightly funny I have been handed falling on the mind that now the possibility of a written allowed honey my mother food into this guy. This guy,
I didn't get a minute now and the climate crisis of a crowd, not quite at Amoy Mass Humanitarian, several thousand people there I got it, Ladies and gentlemen, like the only reason maybe maybe size I can't I'm dead inside right cannot be found in a terrible item. The minutes which they got everywhere.
That radio recording was later paired with newsreel footage of the disaster. Thirty, so the ninety seven people on board the Hindenburg died. When you see the footage of the burning airship The fact that sixty one people survived seems like a miracle. As I mentioned in my introduction, the bill hammock on Youtube, he's known as engineer guy, and I would be remiss I didn't pointing toward his fantastic video on the engine. Design of the aluminum beverage can which for my money, the grid this video on Youtube. It is eleven and a half minutes of everyday design and engineering glory. I love it. Here's a little audio sample Why is there a tab on the into the camp? It seems the question: how else would you open it, but originally cans didn't have tabs very early, still can recall laptops for pretty obvious.
The reasons you use a special opener punctual hold drink from and hold of it. In the meantime sixties the pole tab invented, so that no opener was needed. When links to bills, videos in his book on the hour when a one on his website engineer: guy dot com. Ninety nine percent, invisible is every government in future reviews of turn, Massa composer Sean Rio Digital. Rector Kirkwall Stead, Senor Delaney Hall senior producer, Katy, mingle and me roman Mars? We are project. Ninety one point: seven K, L W in San Francisco and produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown, Oakland, California, we are part of radio Tokyo from PR acts, collective, the best most innovative, shows in all a casting. We are supported by our listeners. Just like you,
You ve only nine percent invisible, enjoying discussions about the show on Facebook, entreated me at Roman Mars and the show and ninety nine p I or one instagram tumblr and read it to, but we have very fond pictures and diagrams airships on our website there, even more amazing than picture in your head at nothing P. I dot org radio do.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.