Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin
This page is about the airship, for other meanings, see Graf Zeppelin (disambiguation)
The LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was named after the German pioneer of dirigble airships, and flew for the first time on on September 18, 1928. He (German airships were often referred to in the masculine at the time) had a total length of 236.6 m and a volume of 105,000 m³, it was the largest dirigible up to that time.
Initially it was to be used for experimental and demonstration purposes to prepare the way for regular airship traveling, but also carried passengers and mail to cover the costs. In October 1928 the first long-range voyage led the craft to Lakehurst, New Jersey, and the crew were welcomed enthusiastically with confetti parades in New York and invitations to the White House. Later Graf Zeppelin toured in Germany and visited Italy, Palestine and Spain. A second trip to the United States was aborted in France due to engine failure in May 1929.
In August 1929, LZ 127 departed for another daring enterprise: a complete circumnavigation of the globe. The growing popularity of the "giant of the air" made it easy for Zeppelin company chief Dr. Hugo Eckener to find sponsors. One of these was the American press tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who requested the tour to officially start in Lakehurst. From there, Graf Zeppelin flew to Friedrichshafen first, continuing to Tokyo, Los Angeles and back to Lakehurst. It completed the voyage in 21 days, 5 hours and 31 minutes (started on August 8 and ended on August 29). Including the initial and final trips Friedrichshafen-Lakehurst and back, the dirigible travelled 49,618 km.
In the following year, Graf Zeppelin undertook a number of trips around Europe, and following a successful tour to South America in May 1930, it was decided to open the first regular transatlantic airship line. Despite the beginning of the Great Depression and growing competition by fixed-wing aircraft, LZ 127 would transport an increasing amount of passengers and mail across the ocean every year until 1936. Besides, the ship pursued another spectacular destination in July 1931 with a research trip to the Arctic; this had already been a dream of Count Zeppelin twenty years earlier, which could not, however, be realized at the time due to the outbreak of war.
Eckener intended to supplement the successful craft by another, similar Zeppelin, projected as LZ 128. However the disastrous accident of the British passenger airship R 101 in 1931 led the Zeppelin company to reconsider the safety of hydrogen-filled vessels, and the design was abandoned in favor of a new project. LZ 129 which was to eventually be named the Hindenburg would advance Zeppelin technology considerably, and was intended to be filled with helium. The embargo by the United States because of the looming war prevented German access to the large quantities of helium, and the Hindenburg was fatefully converted to a hydrogen design.
After the Hindenburg disaster, public faith in the security of dirigibles was shattered, and flying passengers in hydrogen-filled vessels became intolerable. LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was retired one month past the disaster and turned into a museum. The end for the Graf Zeppelin came with the outbreak of World War II. In March 1940, Nazi Hermann Göring, the German Air minister (Reichsluftfahrtminister), ordered the destruction of the remaining dirigibles, and the aluminium parts were fed into the German war industry.
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