Sunday, July 6, 2008

THE ZEPPELIN COMES BACK

NY Times It has been more than 70 years since the giant Hindenburg zeppelin exploded in a spectacular fireball over Lakehurst, N.J., killing 36 crew members and passengers, abruptly ending an earlier age of airships. But because of new materials and sophisticated means of propulsion, a diverse cast of entrepreneurs is taking another look at the behemoths of the air. . . A French technology start-up, Aerospace Adour Technologies, is working with the French post office to study the feasibility of transporting parcels by dirigible. Also in France, Theolia, a company specializing in renewable energy, is financing a dirigible, and plans a test flight across the Atlantic. In Germany, Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei, the successor to the operator of the Hindenburg, has had success with a new generation of airship it uses to transport sightseers and scientific payloads.

The trend is not entirely new. Zeppelin-Reederei carried 12,000 passengers on sightseeing tours over southern Germany last year. . . But with top speeds of around 100 miles an hour and a maximum capacity of several dozen passengers, dirigibles are expected by most aviation experts to remain niche vessels for ferrying tourists, advertising and occasional scientific payloads.

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