Airships, which went down in history as zeppelins, enjoyed a brief and glorious era of luxury passenger transportation. In 1937, the explosion of the Hindenburg airship ended the first part of the saga. The second part of the airship saga began in Brandenburg in the mid-1990s. At that time, the company CargoLifter AG was preparing to put the dusty idea back on the road with the CL160. Now the giants had to carry heavy loads over long distances. It was a charming idea, for example, to move the blades of wind turbines along federal highways, and over an almost unlimited distance, without a police escort. The new CargoLifter was to be more than 250 meters long. But in 2002 this dream also ended with the bankruptcy of Cargo-Lifter and the idea fell into hibernation again.

The bottom line is that the world hardly heard or saw anything of the ancient giants of the sky, apart from the exhibition flights of the Goodyear Zeppelins. But now the third part of the saga begins and is set in the present: the American billionaire Sergey Brin has been in charge of the invention of the airship. Brin and his partner Larry Page became extremely rich from Google in September 1998. “We wish Mr. Brin a lot of luck and success and hope that all activities in the field of airships will be successful, because this will also help all other projects,” Cargo-Lifter greets the American. The formerly bankrupt German company did not sink, but re-emerged as an airship. Carl-Heinrich von Gablenz's team always uses balloons to lift heavy objects when a crane is not enough.

“Lighter than air”

But back to Mr. Brin. In 2015 he founded the company “LTA Research” in the United States, which translates as “Lighter than air.” When asked by Business Punk magazine, they still do not want to talk about the new company and its objectives, because “it is still too early” for that. After all, Americans mention: “Over the last century, innovations in transportation have allowed us to transport more people and goods: farther, faster, and longer. But most modern modes of transportation consume a lot of carbon.” We are now “blazing a new path towards carbon-free transport that contributes to a cleaner world and complements humanitarian aid. This is achieved by using advances in manufacturing to make them (aircraft) safer, stronger and more efficient than ever before.” Is this all just public relations?

In the mid-2010s, LTA chief executive Alan Weston began researching airship archives and talking to their designers. He also spoke to engineers from Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and got to work. Typical of the USA: After just five weeks of construction, the first model airship flew in Mountain View, California.

Making California airspace unsafe for a year

Then things happened quickly: The company opened a research and development lab in Akron, Ohio, and began construction. The giant Pathfinder 1 has been rethought from the ground up. Around 3,000 welded titanium bushings and 10,000 carbon fiber-reinforced polymer tubes make the monster light enough to use non-flammable helium, rather than highly explosive hydrogen, as a buoyant force. Pathfinder 1 is 124.50 meters long, has two 150 kilowatt diesel generators for the hybrid drive and 24 batteries that power the 12 electric motors. Speed ​​reached: up to 120 kilometers per hour. It has been permitted to carry out flight tests since September. Engineers can make California airspace unsafe for a year with their giant vehicle.

At the Ministry of Economics in Berlin, where Robert Habeck is planning the energy transition and stumbles over many things, including the endless approval processes for heavy transport that laboriously transports windmill blades along the highways, people are has realized this. In general, flying “lighter than air” is an established principle that has not yet been applied on a large scale due to various technical and economic limitations, according to the Habeck Ministry. “In principle, the ministry welcomes any innovation that contributes to solving hitherto unresolved (logistical) problems on the ground,” a spokesperson continued, assuring that “they will continue to follow developments in this area with interest.”