At sporting events, holidays, even at the beach, they're there. Blimps. Quiet and calm, these gigantic airships cruise through the air today with giant billboards on their hulls. But there was a time when these lofty crafts were considered to be the height of luxury. To take a close up look at dirigibles and their history, today I've chosen a few of the best landing sites on the World Wide Web.
Larry Rodrigues's U.S. Navy Airship Picture Book
Again and again, many of the finest, most informative sites I find on the Net are personal pages. This site by Larry Rodrigues is one of the best and demonstrates how personal experience can really illuminate a webstation. Rodrigues actually flew in military airships during the 1950s, and he cautions that most of the information here is based on his personal recollections. Starting with early K-ships, you can take a guided tour of these aircraft with Rodrigues, whose photographs do a wonderful job of capturing the era. The K-ships were "cold, crowded, and uncomfortable," according to our guide, while landing the larger Nan-ships took 60 men and was "hard and dangerous." The 11 sections here amount to a wonderfully narrated scrapbook, making the U.S. Navy Airship Picture Book an invaluable online resource.
The Zeppelin Library Archive
Nicely presented, the Zeppelin Library Archive is a personal webstation created by Matthew Barnes. It is also one of the most erudite sites on the Net for information on the early lighter-than-air ships. The archive is divided into five chapters covering the first of Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin's machines that required water takeoffs and landings to today's passenger NT-7. In addition to some wonderful historical photographs, the most attention is paid to the great dirigibles of the latef ‘20s and ‘30s. These include the lumbering Hindenburg, whose fiery crash in New Jersey put an end to the era of the great airships. Barnes interestingly notes that the Hindenburg was not initially designed to be filled with inflammable hydrogen. Much of the material at the site has a technical bent, focusing on the design of the machines with some anecdotal information about their use at the time. It is, in short, a fascinating webstation.
For those looking to do more research on lighter-than-air craft, I suggest the Airship site. Created and maintained by John Dziadecki it is a massive index of sites and pages about Zeppelins, dirigibles, and blimps. You'll find entire mini sites here created by Dziadecki, such as the many pages dedicated to the company behind the Zeppelins, as well as a cornucopia of links. An extensive listing of online resources includes discussion groups, museums, and manufacturers' webstations. In addition, Dziadecki has included non-digital bibliographies covering available books, LTA gifts, films, documentaries, and movies. You'll find, for example, reviews of and contacts for dirigible models available. And there's even brief information on various countries' current lighter-than-air projects. So if you're becoming obsessed with blimps, check out this Zeppelin-sized site.
Airship and Blimp Resources
Recently revamped and updated, Roland Escher's Airship and Blimp Resources is another excellent online library for lighter-than-air enthusiasts. The main focus of the site is on contemporary research and development, rather than history, but you'll find plenty of help whatever your interest. The site begins with an introductory FAQ that answers questions about what lighter-than-air craft or aerostats actually are and then moves through links to newsgroups, blimp makers, and even little-known thermal airships. There's a directory of airships currently in the sky and a manufacturers database. And while the author cautions visitors to use care and safety, he does provide some excellent homebuilding resources for creating your own craft, including hull materials, flight instruments you can buy, and other construction resources. I suggest, however, that before you take off, you also check with another resource here, the Experimental Balloon and Airship Association. Or better yet, stick with a smaller version, such as the RC or radio controlled blimps listed by Escher.