Operations of Commercial Zeppelins

Attracted by Count Zeppelin's earlier flights, hundreds of persons made reservations for the regularly conducted commercial trips, when in 1910 he organized the Deutsche Luftschiffart, A. G. (German Air Ship Transportation Co.), briefly called the "DELAG" There was apparently a popular demand for commercial airship transport. Zeppelin founded the "DELAG" to meet this demand, and also to provide operating personnel and train pilots and crews for the other services, which he knew, would be necessary in case of emergency.

The "DELAG" was capitalized for 3,000,000 marks (approximately $714,000) and while it was a subsidiary of LuftschiffbauZeppelin , there also participated in this commercial operating organ ization a number of capitalists, whose faith in commercial air transport was fully justified by the success of the "DELAG" despite much difficulty the first year or so due to lack of meteorological data and inexperience.

The First Air Transport Company

During the latter part of 1910, minor accidents occurred which sometimes damaged the airships and disrupted the service, but in 1911 a comparatively regular service was established and maintained. The principal ship was the "Schwaben," (Plates 5 and 30) which was far superior to her predecessors and which had the advantage of new and larger sheds at the Zeppelin-"DELAG" airports. The schedule maintained by the "Schwaben" justifies the assertion that the "DELAG" operated the first commercial aerial transport company on earth. Her success encouraged expansion, and in 1912, two

additional ships, the "Victoria Louise" (Plates 31-32) and the "Hansa" (Plate 33) were built and entered the "DELAG" service, to be followed the next year by the "Sachsen", (Plate 33).

Part of the Aviation Reserve

The German Army commandeered all these commercial Zeppelins at the start of the war. They were used partly for military duty and partly as training ships for the many necessary crews. The first year of the war, they added hundreds of flights to the commercial record they had already made; but gradually became obsolete and were dismantled to make room for the newer and more efficient types being turned out at the Zeppelin Plants.

The headquarters of the "DELAG" were at Frankfort. It was from that city that the chief executives controlled operations. The Business Manager had charge of the financial and commercial activities . He supervised salaries, purchase. of supplies, materials, etc. Flying operations were in charge of a Director of Flight. He had charge of the personnel at the air harbors; and all technical problems were put up to him.

The crew of a commercial Zeppelin included the pilot, a reserve pilot, a flight mechanic, helmsmen and engineers, the number depending on the nature of the flight, a wireless operator and a ship's steward. The crew usually aggregated twelve men.

Created the First Airship Harbor

As far as practicable, each Zeppelin was assigned to a definite air harbor, which was known as its home station, or terminal. Here all the repairs and maintenance were done. The members of the crew were assigned to suitable homes, all located in that immediate vicinity. The maintenance crews for airships and sheds were also stationed there. These auxiliaries averaged thirty persons under the

direction of a foreman. They, too, formed the nucleus for the landing party necessary to handle the airships on arrival or departure. Each air harbor had a manager and his assistants to handle business details. When the Zeppelin arrived at its home port, and during its sojourn there the pilot was in sole command of both ship and air station. He was held strictly accountable for the safety of his ship; and acted as both station master and flying officer, subject only to instruction from the Director of Flight. The pilot alone made the decisions as to whether or not he should make a flight, when he should start and the number of passengers and crew he would carry. It is interesting to note that this system was adopted for the entire German airship force during the war. In fact, practically all airship personnel was trained by the "DELAG."

Like Land and Water Services

There was no special organization for selling passenger accommodations . Agents of the Hamburg-American Line ("HAPAG") which had offices in all German cities, also represented Zeppelin, and reservations were made on the same basis as for ocean going vessels.

The "Deutschland" was the first .Zeppelin operated by the "DELAG." The motors, however, were not very dependable; and the low speed of the ship, combined with lack of experience made it susceptible to minor accidents. The Deutschland was so badly damaged, finally, that Zeppelin was compelled to rebuild her. During the period that she was being reconstructed the Zeppelin LZ-6 was substituted.

The "Schwaben" Filled all Requirements

The first ship to fill the requirements essential to safe and steady commercial operations was the "Schwaben" built in the summer of 1911. She was 459.2 feet (140 meters) long, 45.9 feet (14 meters) in

diameter, and of 615,580 cubic feet (18,000 cubic meters) hydrogen gas capacity. Her three Maybach 145 horespower motors gave the "Schwaben" a speed of -13 miles an hour (19.3 meters per second ). She had a useful lift of 8,818.4 pounds (4,000 kilograms). During the latter part of 1911 more than a hundred flights were made with the "Schwaben" between Lake Constance, Niederheim , Gotha, and Berlin. These flights warranted larger ships. In March 1912, the "DELAG" put into operation the new Zeppelin "Victoria Louise" (Plates 31-32) and in the summer, her sister ship the "Hansa". These Zeppelins were 485.4 feet (148 meters) long and 45.9 feet (14 meters) in diameter. They each held 670,890 cubic feet (19,000 cubic meters) of hydrogen and their useful lift was 11,023 pounds (5,000 kilograms). Motors had been so improved that the "Victoria Louise" and "Hansa" were able to make 44.7 and 46.9 miles per hour respectively.

Accommodations for Many Passengers

Each Zeppelin accommodated twenty-four passengers besides the crew. Warm meals were served from the up to date electrical kitchen. There was wireless aboard, also. The ships gave complete satisfaction during hundreds of flights made over constantly increasing distances. They won the confidence of the traveling public; and equally important, had supplied much valuable experience and information, for they operated in all kinds of weather at all seasons of the year.

In 1913, the new Zeppelin, "Sachsen", (Plate 33) was added to the "DELAG" fleet. She had a length of 459.2 feet (140 meters) and a diameter of 49.2 feet (15 meters) which increased the lift because she carried 670,890 cubic feet (19,000 cubic meters) of hydrogen which gave her a useful lift of more than 13,227.6 pounds (6,000 kilograms). Her speed was better than 48 miles an hour and she carried twenty-four passengers.

New and larger sheds were built for the "DELAG" as the fleet increased in size. When they first commenced flying there were only two airship sheds in addition to the one at Friedrichshafen. These were at Baden-Baden and at Dusseldorf. They owned the shed at Baden-Baden and leased from the municipality the one at Dusseldorf. Toward the end of 1911 others were available, one at Johannisthal near Berlin and one at Gotha. In 1912 two more were ready, one at Frankfort on the main, owned by the "DELAG," and one at Potsdam, owned by Luftschiffbau-Zeppelin. In 1913 the municipalities of Hamburg, Leipzig and Dresden erected sheds. (Plates 34-35-36.) In the beginning the sheds were single but the ones built after the "DELAG" had started regular schedules, accommodated two ships side by side. Some of the sheds were huge, often 196.8 feet (60 meters) wide.

Development of Adequate JIamjars

They were provided with electric lights, water supply and docking rails, which extended from either end. Special piping conveyed the hydrogen from plant to shed. All sheds had railway connections, and were equipped with waiting rooms for passengers and crews, as well as workshops and accessory buildings. The airship harbors built by the "DELAG" and Zeppelin had particularly extensive workshops, for besides the regular maintenance work, they produced many new parts and instruments for navigating Zeppelins.

At every shed there was a meteorological station fitted with barometers, barographs, thermographs, and a theodolite for measurement of the wind velocity in the upper atmosphere. Weather observations were made each morning and telegraphed to all other stations. This enabled all Zeppelin pilots to be thoroughly informed before setting out on a flight. The special data supplied by the Zeppelin stations was more adequate for airship requirements than

that from the Government official weather bureau. Wireless equipment was installed late in 1913.

Many Long Commercial Flights

The average commercial flight was from 37 to 62 miles (60 to 100 kilometers) from 13/2 to 2 3^2 hours. When the flights were from one airship harbor to another they often lasted four and sometimes eight hours. The fare was determined by the length of the flight, or the mileage. Round trip flights, which were comparatively short, cost from 25 to 50 dollars (one to two hundred marks.) The long distance trips ranged from 60 to 150 dollars (250 to 600 marks). Many single flights were made over the North Sea. The "Victoria Louise" often flew to Helgoland, Sylt and Norderney, the "Hansa" to Copenhagen and the "Sachsen" to Vienna. These flights were characterized as pleasure trips; and as such none was undertaken during the winter months. Instead, the Zeppelins underwent a thorough overhauling. Sometimes, however, a Zeppelin was kept in service all winter to train airship personnel of the army or navy. Naturally "DELAG" became noted for its successful operations: and its ships wererepeatedly chartered by the military or naval personnel for training flights.

Developed Airship Navigation

The "DELAG" has been credited with the entire development of airship navigating technique. For one thing, it was the only organization of its kind, training airship personnel in practical operations. The "DELAG" airships and airship crews were used almost exclusively for training purposes when war was declared. At that time there were two other airship construction companies in Germany, Schutte-Lanz and Parseval. Both of these organizations procured their airship pilots from the trained personnel of the "DELAG."

Zeppelins Operated Safely

All of the flights listed in the following table were made without a single injury to passengers or crew. The Deutschland had been repeatedly damaged wliile entering or leaving her shed and was rebuilt. The "Schwaben" was burned at her moorings during a severe storm. It is now known that all these accidents could have been avoided, in view of the progress that has been made in the science of lighter-than-air. Experience has materially increased the performance and qualities of safety in airships. Better motors, controls , gas bags and other parts of the Zeppelin have been so improved as to preclude possibility of accidents such as those which occasionally hindered the operations of "DELAG" before the war. Each of the flights listed here averaged two hours, 68 miles (109 kilometers), traversed with 22 passengers. All the flights aggregated 107,180 miles (172,535 kilometers), more than four times the girth of the earth at the equator.

Trained Germany's Airship Forces

In the early days of the war the "Victoria Louise" made more than a thousand training flights for more than 39,852 miles (64,152 kilometers) in 1292 hours, flying time, all after she had been added to the military training forces. Finally, her framework became so worn that she was dismantled. The "Sachsen" and "Hansa" (Plate 33) performed similar service. From the Managing Director to the mechanics, all of the "DELAG" personnel entered the service during the war, where they were instructors , and it was due to them that the numbers of Zeppelins launched for war service were manned by crews qualified to operate them.

Commercial Operations Resumed

The real work for which the "DELAG" was created, "to develop commercial air transport" was of necessity put aside during the period of the war, but these activities were resumed early in 1919 when it was decided to start a regular daily passenger service, at first between Berlin and Friedrichshafen, a distance of 373 miles (600 kilometers) and afteward extend it to Switzerland, Italy, Spain in the south and to Sweden in the north. The pre-war personnel of the "DELAG" was assembled at Friedrichshafen and the route to Berlin started by the new Zeppelin "Bodensee" on August 24th, 1919 (Plate 38).

The "Bodensee" an Improved Type

The "Bodensee" was designed and built in six months (January to July 1919), by Lufschiffbau-Zeppelin. She was the same size as the pre-war Commercial Zeppelins, but had twice the engine power, carried twice their useful load and maintained a speed equal with the former ships using only one-half of their engine power.

The "Bodensee" was 426.4 feet (130 meters) long, after she had been lengthened by 32.8 feet (10 meters). Her diameter was 61.3 feet (18.7 meters) and she carried 794,475 cubic feet (22,500 cubic meters) of hydrogen. Her useful load normally was 25,353 pounds (11,500 kilograms). Her four motors were of 260 horsepower each. They turned three direct-driven propellers, one in each of the port and starboard motor gondolas which hung from the sides of the ship. The third propeller was driven by two engines in the rear motor gondola. The propellers averaged from 1,300 to 1,400 revolutions a minute. The "Bodensee" was capable of making 80 miles an hour. Her cruising speed was 75 miles an hour.

Carried Thirty Passengers

At this pace she could carry thirty passengers comfortably. They were seated in a luxurious salon (Plate 41) built in the pilot car under the forward part of the Zeppelin. Nearby in the same car were a kitchen and lavatory. The "Bodensee" was maintained on the Friedrichshafen-Berlin route to experiment further in commercial air transport. While the "DELAG" did not attempt to make a profit, expenses were kept as low as possible and the prospects of monetary returns were generally favorable.

One Hundred and Three Flights in Ninety-Eight Days

From August 24th until December 1st, 1919, the "Bodensee" made 103 flights in 98 days; on several days making two flights, one a short sightseeing trip over Berlin in addition to her regular run. Seventy-eight flights were made between Lake Constance and Berlin and two between Berlin and Stockholm, eighty trips on schedule in ninety-eight days. There was no flying for ten days owing to general overhaul and repairs. On three occasions the regular flights were

postponed because of heavy cross winds which made it difficult and dangerous to start the Zeppelin from the fixed shed of the airdrome at Staaken. This meant the loss of six trips. Two of the regular trips were omitted because of the flights to Sweden. Nevertheless, in that period 2,380 passengers were carried, exclusive of crews, about 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) of mail and 6,600 (300 kilograms) of express, freight and baggage. The "Bodensee" was in the air 533 hours, flying in all 32,300 miles (52,000 kilometers) an average of 62 miles an hour. Notwithstanding the many unforeseen difficulties due to uncertain political and economic conditions in Germany during the last quarter of 1919, the technical results of the "Bodensee" operations were excellent.

The "Nordstern" a Sister Ship

A sister ship of the "Bodensee" was built during the last quarter of 1919, and named the "Nordstern" but in December , that year, the Inter-Allied Air-Control Commission ordered the airship operations stopped. The "Bodensee" was delivered to Italy and the "Nordstern" to France in 1921.

Once more the aeronautical world became interested in Zeppelins. The last cruise of the "Bodensee" under German management took her from Friedrichshafen to Rome. She cruised over Zurich, Bern, Geneva and Avignon, often making 160 kilometers an hour, to the Mediterranean, near St. Rafael. Visitors at Cannes, Nice and Monaco saw a rigid airship for the first time as the "Bodensee" held to her route passing directly over Corsica and Elba, and finally to the airdrome in Ciampino, between Rome and .the Albanian mountains . She had made more than 825 miles (1,329 kilometers) in 12 hours and 49 minutes, at an average speed of 64.6 miles (104 kilometers ) an hour for the entire distance.