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8th of August 1929

It was on this day in aviation history that the Graf Zeppelin (LZ 127) airship began its flight around the globe, starting at Lake Hurst, New Jersey. Heading east the airship refuelled in Friedrichshafen (Germany) and continued east to Tokyo (Japan). Continuing its easterly course the airship headed to Los Angeles (USA) and then made a "short" hop to Lake Hurst, New Jersey (USA)

The Graf Zeppelin (named after the German Airship pioneer Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin) was a rigid airship filled with hydrogen that flew between 1928 and 1937. In the spring of 1940 the aircraft was scrapped. The Graf Zeppelin made 590 flights during its operational career and covered a distance of ~920.000 nm (1.700.000 kilometres), it had a crew of 36 and had accommodation for 20 passengers.


Besides being the first airship to circumnavigate the globe, it was also the first airship to cross the Pacific. ( a feat accomplished during its flight around the globe) Its long-range capabilities were enhanced by the special fuel it used for its engines, Blau Gas. Because of its specific gravity (nearly the same as air), the buoyancy of the airship hardly changed when fuel was burned and thus the airship required far less hydrogen being vented when fuel was burned, compared to fuel-burning airships. Blau Gas (Blue Gas) was manufactured by decomposing mineral oils in retorts by heat and compressing the resulting naphtha until it is liquefied. It was transported in liquid condition, and like LPG, when released it returns to a gaseous state.

Between 1928 and 1932 the airship flew several long flights, including to the Arctic. From 1932 till 1937 it was used on a scheduled service between Germany and Brasil. These flights were very expensive, 1500 Reichs Mark, ~$11.000 in current day. It was used as a propaganda tool by the nazi party when they came to power but was retired after the Hindenburg disaster in 1937. It was scrapped so its materials could be used for military aircraft production in March 1940. Specifications of the Graff Zeppelin

· Crew: 36

· Capacity: 20 passengers / Typical disposable load 19,900 kg (43,900 lb)

· Length: 236.6 m (776 ft 3 in)

· Diameter: 30.5 m (100 ft 1 in) maximum

· Fineness ratio: 7.25

· Height: 33.5 m (109 ft 11 in)

· Volume: 75,000 m3 (2,600,000 cu ft) hydrogen + 30,000 m3 (1,100,000 cu ft) Blau gas capacity

· Number of gas cells: 16

· Empty weight: 67,100 kg (147,930 lb)

· Fuel capacity: 8,000 kg (18,000 lb) petrol + 30,000 m3 (1,100,000 cu ft) Blau gas

· Useful lift: 87,000 kg (192,000 lb) typical gross lift

· Powerplant: 5 × Maybach VL II V-12 water-cooled reversible piston engines, 410 kW (550 hp) each

· Propellers: 2, later 4-bladed propellers

· Maximum speed: 128.16 km/h (79.63 mph, 69.20 kn)

· Range: 10,000 km (6,200 mi, 5,400 nmi) at 117 km/h (73 mph; 63 kn)

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