Airship Transport Times?

I am not familiar enough with how long airships of World War One and just after vintage took to reach places

I know the L59 went from Germany to Bulgaria and then on as far as the Sudan before turning back, but not the timeframe it took to do this. I know it later bombed Naples from a Bulgarian base but not how long that round trip took?

How long would a relatively short airship journey take? A day? Say from London to Paris?

And then if a non-stop one was attempted from London to somewhere in the Middle East? A few days? A week?

How long did the 1930s journeys across the Atlantic take?

Thanks for any help
Grey Wolf
 
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29 hours from Berlin to Bulgaria according to this

On November 3rd, 1917, Bockholt was given his official orders to fly to Bulgaria and then onto Africa. He was to be the designated commander for the mission, code named China-Sache, loosely translated as "China Show" or "China Matter." Once south of Lake Victoria, L59 was to radio German forces to find out where exactly they were supposed to land. Naval Command noted that a 'recent deterioration of the situation' based on 'recent reports' would make the location of Lettow-Vorbeck difficult to determine.

Having finally departed from Friedrichshafen in Germany, under the temporary command of Hugo Eckener, 29 hours later L59 arrived at Yambol (Jamboli) in Bulgaria, the last available airbase before flying out over the Mediterranean and a two thousand miles flight across Allied held Africa.


Er, click "See More" to see the source. The board turned my link into that preview
 
L59 continues to give some indication

On the morning of 21st November L59 and her crew of 22 started the long trip to the African highlands. In her hold was 30,000 pounds of cargo, sixteen tons of bullets, 30 machine guns, ammo and parts; medicines; bandages; and mail. Also on-board was some 15,000 lbs of water ballast. She was launched at 08:30 and by 10:00 she was over Germany's ally, the Ottoman Empire. She then followed the Turkish railway to Turkey's southern coast line. The ship made good time as she cruised over Turkey, the Sea of Marmara and the coast of Asia Minor. The crew tried to sleep in their hammocks located in the keel, which was far from ideal, as the outer cover was prone to flapping in the wind. But it allowed them to maintain a watch of four hours on and four hours off. An engine was stopped for one hour in every eight for maintenance and in this way, L59 ran on at least four engines at all times.

Things started to take a turn for the worse with an electrical storm over Crete, which caused a lookout to raise a false alarm that the ship was on fire. The zeppelin's hull flashed and glowed blue, but it was only St. Elmo's Fire caused by static charge. During the storm, however, the crew retracted the radio aerial as was standard procedure, and the zepplin was out of contact for the time being. In Berlin, officials working off fragmentary reports believed Lettow-Vorbeck had finally been overrun and his army had surrendered. As a result Berlin sent out an order to L59 ordering her to return to Bulgaria which was, due to the ariel's retraction, not received. While it is true a large portion of Lettow-Vorbeck's army had indeed surrendered, he had not, in fact, been overrun. He had decided to order the weak and disabled (including Max Looff) to stay behind and to surrender while taking with him only the hardened veterans to continue the campaign from fighting within the bush. But it was still a problem that once the airship arrived, establishing radio contact with Lettow-Vorbeck would be difficult and trying to make a successful rendezvous when your own side is waging a guerilla war would be highly risky.

At 05:15 on the 22nd November the Zeppelin crossed over the African coastline near Mersa Matruh and flying via the Dakhla Oasis set a dog-leg course up the Nile.

24 hours from Bulgaria to the Nile, it seems.
 

Driftless

Donor
Not hard data, but I'd think the acts of un-mooring and re-mooring would be very time-consuming and manpower-intensive exercises, so short runs would prove to be un-economical. Even after you've gotten all passengers and cargo on board, the mechanics of safe disconnection and gentle backing away, followed by turns and climbs to clear the mooring mast would take a couple of hours? And the opposite operations at the end of the flight. (Not so far different from modern airport operations at that.... :biggrin: )
 
3 days, fighting headwinds and dodging thunderstorms on the US side.
Hindenburg

So from that article

Each of the ten westward trips that season took 53 to 78 hours and eastward took 43 to 61 hours. The last eastward trip of the year left Lakehurst on October 10; the first North Atlantic trip of 1937 ended in the Hindenburg disaster.

In July 1936, Hindenburg completed a record Atlantic round trip between Frankfurt and Lakehurst in 98 hours and 28 minutes of flight time (52:49 westbound, 45:39 eastbound)

The latter intrigues me - is that a TOTAL time including down time, or is that just the flight time? I assume it needed to refuel and revictualise etc
 
So, given these numbers, would 3 days from London to Baghdad seem reasonable, or too long?

It might depend on the route? I don't know if over land or over sea is better? The L59 article seemed to imply that flying over mountains was more problematic.
 
On the morning of 21st November L59 and her crew of 22 started the long trip to the African highlands. In her hold was 30,000 pounds of cargo, sixteen tons of bullets, 30 machine guns, ammo and parts; medicines; bandages; and mail. Also on-board was some 15,000 lbs of water ballast. She was launched at 08:30 and by 10:00 she was over Germany's ally, the Ottoman Empire.

Despite these hardships, L59 continued on with her journey, passing over the Sudan. On the 23rd November the zepplin was 125 miles (201 km) due west of Khartoum when she finally received an "abort" message from the Admiralty.

2 days or 2 and a half days? From Bulgaria to Khartoum?
 
I once watched several hot air balloons rising up into the air, and going in three different directions and traveling at different speeds, depending on the altitude they were at, because the air at different altitudes doesn't all move in the same direction nor speed. Before that day, I had not realized that that was the case.

And yes, I'm still re-reading that article myself. Did you notice the part about a return trip, where an engine was out and they had to raise up to 3,600 feet, to get a favorable air current to get back to Germany?
 
I once saw a video from a camera that was setup with one airship or another way back, and was shocked to see the gas bags getting savagely blown around, within the airship! Scary where you think about what they are filled with, and what could happen if the bag tears.

I wonder if a modern day airship could have the metal structure contained within an inflated/pressurized set of bags/tubes, to keep the gas bags from rubbing up against the actual metal frames themselves.
 

SwampTiger

Banned
Airship speed and altitude were based upon design and prevailing winds. The WW1 high altitude craft were fragile compared to the passenger service airships. The US Navy airships had difficulty passing through the Southern Rockies because of low designed ceilings. The airship services were pioneering routes wherever they went. They traveled routes no airplane would see for a decade. Cruise speeds were from 40-70 miles per hour augmented or delayed by wind speed. Look up the first Graf Zeppelin to see travel times as it circumnavigated the world. https://www.airships.net/blog/graf-zeppelin-round-the-world-flight-august-1929/
 
German airships did not use the mooring mast concept until after the Great War; mooring masts were a British and American idea. Preferred Zeppelin practice was to keep airships in the hangar as much as possible, to walk them out of the hangar with an army of ground handling men, and they went so far as to make rotating hangars to turn them to face the wind during the delicate removal from or placement into the hangar operations.

The mooring mast idea was something British and American developers actually thought would save time, as well as avoid the need to move an airship into or out of a hangar when the winds were not conveniently in line with the hangar doors. They thought you could just park the airship moored by the nose and it would just wind-sock into suitable line. But the high mast idea proved more complicated in practice, it being necessary to have crews aboard to "fly" it with elevator and rudder control. ZR-1, the Shenandoah, first of three rigids made in the USA, blew loose from its high mast mooring, losing part of the nose in so doing, and fortunately crew aboard were able to nurse her back to Lakehurst. Later the USS Los Angeles, ZR-3 (LZ-125, the ship Zeppelin made just before Graf Zeppelin) did an amazing headstand on its high mast--a cold air mass came in from the sea while its tail was pointing that way, so the high buoyant lift displacing the colder air levered it up to a near vertical attitude, then it settled on the opposite side. This kind of mast "kiting" is something I've seen pictures of modern blimps doing too. The damage from going vertical was minimal in LA's case, but this led to the USN developing the low mast or stub mass--and that I believe is the only mast any Zeppelin design ever moored too (except LA which was in American hands and built to US specs more or less). I might be forgetting something, but I do know that Dr Hugo Eckener was not pleased with the idea of mechanical ground handling; he went so far as to imply that the USN attempts to automate and mechanize airship handling had some kind of direct connection to Americans losing their airships and made it clear he only trusted human ground handling which he thought was gentler on the airship.

So the "stub mast" was a series of short masts meant to just reach the nose mooring when the bottom of the airship was resting right on the ground or nearly so, the hope being that moored to weights on the tail the ship could swing around the mooring circle but not kite up, also of course it was more convenient to get in or out of the airship when its control car was right there on the ground than to climb in and out the nose hatch.

Eckener I believe tolerated the stub mast as part of handling Hindenburg in to the Lakehurst hangar and out of it again--the mast was on wheels.

To be sure we could replace @Driftless's remark about "mooring" with marching it out of the hangar (and then they had more handling to do out on the field, they didn't just run them straight out and go) for the same sense--ground handling of an airship is tricky and can be time consuming, and it is true that they didn't generally make lots of little stops like a bus or train, it was much preferred to launch and go a long way indeed.

Regarding flying over sea versus land--airships were at their best over the oceans with their fairly stable thermal conditions and the level surface. Between the wars Eckener liked to operate near sea level when he could, often flying at a lower altitude than the length of the ship, he believed that thermals and gusts could not blow straight down into the sea when you were right near the surface. And of course near the sea one is in almost the densest air an airship can have which means if one has not previously risen and vented out gas, one has maximum lift. (Fun fact, Graf Zeppelin once visited the Dead Sea, which is pretty far below sea level, causing its gas bags to deflate quite a lot, and later boasted he'd taken his airship deeper below the sea surface level than most U-boats ever dived to).

I haven't reread the Afrikaschift article, but IIRC it mentions the issues that airship had trying to fly over the Sahara by day, and central Africa in the tropics generally; over land one meets lots of thermals, and these were nasty to deal with. The loss of Shenandoah was blamed in part on sending what was meant to be an ocean going ship over the volatile weather continental USA for PR purposes--though later the Akron was lost in gusty weather over the open Atlantic, and the USS Macon similarly lost her tail fin and was lost over the Pacific.

"Flying the weather map" was how Eckener described his method of covering ground miles ASAP, and could exceed a hundred knots or more with the right tailwinds he devoted himself to locating ad hoc as he went along.

The record airspeed attained by any airship was I believe a USN blimp sometime in the '50s or very early '60s, it is an unofficial record (80 knots) because they did a lot of unapproved stuff to achieve it. Macon I believe was rated up to 75 knots or so, Akron to 72, but standard cruise speeds were lower. Aside from engine power and prop efficiency and streamlining (the last two Navy rigids were beautifully streamlined, their helium inflation allowing for engine rooms to be set up within the hull leaving only propeller outriggers and the control gondola outside it) the limit on airspeed is largely structural; the faster one goes the worse the bending moment from gusts is, so souping up the power is counterproductive.

I do think the interwar rigids were somewhat faster in airspeed than the wartime models. As noted most late war Zeppelins were "height climbers," designed with ultra light structure so they could rise very high and proceed toward England to bomb there, at altitudes where it was hoped the British could not intercept or hit them with AA fire.

The German practice was to fill up an airship with hydrogen on the ground until its cells were taut, and then, dropping sandbag ballast, rise, with the automatic pressure relief valve releasing gas as it expanded; this meant lift would drop and to sustain the rise more sandbags or water ballast would be dropped, thus the gas cells remained fully inflated through the ascent. Only on descending to return to base would they collapse under the rising pressure at lower altitudes.

The height climbers were designed to make their design airspeed at high altitude, and aside from air dynamic pressure being higher at a given speed at a lower altitude, the engines were also overdesigned so as to deliver the necessary power when running on the thin upper atmosphere air; running them at full throttle near sea level would deliver too much power and could easily wreck the ship.

Whereas, hoping to operate near sea level, the postwar civil airships were more robust, though Eckener certainly was able to take the Graf Zeppelin pretty high when he needed or wanted to.

So there isn't really an absolute answer to the question of how fast an airship could go, in ground speed terms; in airspeed it rose from 40 knots toward 70 postwar. 40 knots, the ballpark of Shenandoah's normal performance was too slow to overcome fairly common headwinds.
 
3 days, fighting headwinds and dodging thunderstorms on the US side.
Hindenburg
From my notes.
The airship Graf Zeppelin operated from Germany to Brazil from 1932 to 37, carrying mail, high value freight and passengers. It also overflew the Amazon and filmed the river from the air.
  • The trip cost 1,500RM (~US$490), one way, in 1934. Departs every other Saturday, summer only. The trip takes a little over three days and there’s almost always a reporter on board, in case the PCs get up to mischeif.
 
I'm trying to work out how to calculate London to Stockholm by airship?

Would it attempt to avoid any mountains?

So, the route would be over the North Sea, over Denmark and over Scania?

It says 970 miles/1500 km

If you look at the Graf Zepellin it took only 2 and a half days to 7000 miles from Germany, across land then across the Atlantic

But elsewhere it says here, cruising speed of 40 to 70 mph. I can't make that figure square with the above. For example if an average of 55mph and 55 hours, then you only get half the distance to Lakehurst covered...
 
German airships did not use the mooring mast concept until after the Great War; mooring masts were a British and American idea. Preferred Zeppelin practice was to keep airships in the hangar as much as possible, to walk them out of the hangar with an army of ground handling men, and they went so far as to make rotating hangars to turn them to face the wind during the delicate removal from or placement into the hangar operations.
Interesting: are there any diagrams or videos of rotating hangars? I haven't been able to find any looking online.
 
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