Will passenger airships ever make a comeback?

They do. But they also carry lots of passengers at high speed, thereby generating lots of passenger-miles in return for the fuel they burn.

Using very conservative assumptions, a B-747 carries 300 passengers at 600 mph burning 4000 gals/hour, which works out to 45 passenger-miles per gallon.

They do. But since they carry fewer passengers at a much lower speed, they don’t measure up in per-passenger fuel efficiency.

Post #64 in this thread works out a max figure of around 25 passenger-miles/gallon for the Hindenburg.

Fffft. I’d be happy enough if trains made a comeback. Cross Canada by rail kicked ass.

Airships don’t stand a chance; people are in too much of a damned hurry all the time.

Well assuming a new Zeppelin would still max out to 72 passengers, a modern engine would be far more efficient. I do not think a doubling of the efficiency is unreasonable. That would put the Zeppelin at 50 passenger-miles per gallon vs. the 45 of the jet. The Frame and the Skin and the Gondola would all be lighter so the increased efficiency might be higher. Therefore, I think you are better off keeping the argument to vastly greater speeds.


It has, at least twice:

Will Passenger AIRSHIPS Make A Comeback?
Will passenger airships ever come back? Or freight airships?

But what the heck, there probably isn’t a topic on earth we haven’t covered before at some point. :slight_smile:

Not really. On zeppelins like the Hindenburg the engines were in ‘engine cars’ mounted outside the body of the airship, and well behind the passenger compartment. It was very noisy for the crewmen who tended to the engines, however. Mechanics stood rotating watches in each of the engine cars to keep an eye on rpms, water and oil temperature etc.

Blimps do use far less fuel, but they also carry far less people/cargo. Even the far larger rigid airships couldn’t carry as much as a modern commercial jet. FWIW, I posted on fuel consumption in one of the previous threads:

May 17-20 1937 the Hindenburg flew from Frankfurt Germany to Lakehurst, New Jersey. Total flight time was 78.5 hours and 4500 miles (7238 kilometers). They used a total of 41,110 kilograms (90632 pounds) of diesel fuel, which is about 12765 US gallons.

There were 41 passengers, so that works out to 14.45 passenger/miles per gallon. With a full load of 72 passengers, that would be about 25.4 passenger/miles per gallon.

The USS Macon was a US Navy airship, so it didn’t carry passengers, but it was close to the same size (6,850,000 cubic feet to the Hindenburg’s 7,062,000 cf). On the Macon’s 110,000 pounds of fuel (15,500 US gallons), it’s range was:

Speed in Knots…Hours…Range in Nautical Miles

So at it’s cruise speed of 55 knots (63.3 mph), the range was 5940 Nautical miles (6819 miles).

(Figures are from the Airships Akron and Macon by Richard K. Smith and Graf Zeppelin & Hindenburg by Harold G. Dick and Douglas H. Robinson.)

These figures are for seventy year old aircraft. Presumably a modern airship built with 21st century technology could be a lot more efficient, but I don’t know if it would equal the 747 numbers or not. On the other hand, all a passenger on a commercial jet gets is a seat. Passengers on the Hindenburg had their own cabins, as well as dining rooms, observation decks and a piano bar. More like
a cruise ship.

I don’t know if airships could ever be efficient enough to make them worth bringing back for cargo use, but I think it could be do-able for passengers, on some scale. Smaller blimps could carry people on short scenic flights (they’re already used for this in a few places) and large rigid airships for long distance luxury travel. People would do it for the experience, rather than because it was the most cost effective or quickest means of transportation.

I’d compare it to crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Elizabeth 2. If you want to go from England to the US, the QE2 wouldn’t be the fast way, or the cheap way. And yet many people do it just for the enjoyment of the travel itself.

But if we’re going to make those assumptions for the Zeppelin, we should take a look at what’s possible for the jet.

Less conservative assumptions for the 747 would be 450 passengers on 3600 gals/hour, which would approach 75 passenger-miles/gallon. I don’t have figures for the A380, but it will be better. So I think it will be quite hard for a lighter-than-aircraft to match the fuel specifics of existing airliners.

Another point is that to generate the same number of passenger-miles per day as one 747, a whole fleet of LTAs (say, 25) would be needed. That’s 25 pilots, 25 copilots, a large number of engine mechanics, etc. All this will seriously interfere with attempts to be competitive.

That is fine, but based on speed alone, I doubt Zeppelin could be competitive.
I was just nitpicking the fuel consumption, I doubt it is the major issue preventing commercial Zeppelin flights from coming back.

Maybe a Lakehurst* to Orlando run would be able to make money. Combine the population density of the NYC, Philly and NJ with the draw of Disney World and sell the romance of it. Like the cruises Disney sells.

Jim {* Silly useless information, I am posting 3 miles from the Lakehurst gate and 5 miles from where I think the Hindenburg actually went down.}

I’d agree. Some views seem to imply that an LTA would be substantially more fuel-efficient, which isn’t so. But their fuel efficiency doesn’t look to be a big problem either.

There’s lots of traffic on that route. But you can do it both cheaply and rapidly in an airliner, neither of which would be true in a Zeppelin.

Better might be a super-scenic route - say, through the Alps or the Rockies. The trouble here would be altitude (there’s probably no cost-effective way to pressurize an LTA) and weather (which is a major achilles’ heel).

Exactly! Airships couldn’t compete with airliners or trains, as a mode of transit, however they could compete as a vacation. The Orient Express still exists even though there are faster and cheaper alternatives.

I meant to folks on the ground- since zeppelins fly low, I’dve thought you might get a kind of plane-landing sound, but all the time.