Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Original Italian text here
Airships return, old ghosts reappear, the challenge Italy-Germany heats again, but outside the stadiums. As NASA prepares to launch the competition "20-20-20 Airship Challenge", which in 2015 could well earn $ 1.5 million to those who will design a dirigible drone capable of flying for 20 hours, at an altitude of 20 kilometers, carrying 20 pounds, once again Italy discovers to be stuck in the case "Umberto Nobile". The criticisms recently raised by the flight of some inflatables above Milan - one collided with a civic arena’s pylon, the other used to promote X-Factor’s transmission final - indirectly result from the never exceeded fascist condemnations against one of the most famous explorers and engineers in Italy. 

Umberto Nobile
Although, during the Postwar period, Nobile had been rehabilitated by the prosecution to have besmirched country’s honor because of airship Italy's crash on Spitzbergen islands ice - in that fateful 1928 when the friend-enemy  Roald Amundsen  also lost his life trying to save the Italian crew - there are too many unresolved questions: was his immediate removal, at the expense of injured comrades, only a matter of petty insurance reimbursement? And why did the fascist regime prevent Nobile to coordinate aid operations, keeping it segregated and inactive on the ship “Città di Milano”, while all other nations sacrificed themselves to rescue the Red Tent? Certainly the communist sympathies of Nobile, who unlike some Schettino objected strenuously to be taken by the group of survivors, offered an excellent opportunity to give a personality too popular for Duce’s tastes a bad name; but the real reason has to be found in an industrial investment’s choice that, in all these decades, has relegated Italy as the vanguard of the skies to a mere supporting actor of the international giants. Having ditched the production of airships, focusing exclusively on rapid aeronautics wanted by fascist cabinet minister Italo Balbo, not only spotted Nobile’s figure indelibly, but left a free hand to competitors of a time: first, the legendary Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH & Co

Zeppelin Museum - Friedrichshafen (Deutschland)
So, while Zeppelin museum in Friedrichshaven celebrates today moustachioed Count’s epic story and the heirs of his sky’s giants are divided between tourist flights or prestigious scientific posts, Milan even longer remembers it was his pioneer Enrico Forlanini to introduce the control cabin fixed to the casing of the airships, or use for the first time jets of compressed air for aircraft’s directional control, or sell his prototypes to the English Crown. Neither the city gives importance to the fact that behind the design of the glorious USSR airship Ve6, as well as in the US Air Force boom of the '40s, there was just that Umberto Nobile that, first of all, had flown over the North Pole in 1926. At most, Italians sing the praises of the restaurant Tenda Rossa in Trieste.

"In the United States - said Sarah Miller, astrophysics professor at the University of California - the aim is now to study the pall of pollution over the megalopolis through airships, to keep under control the evolution of hurricanes by flying on the eye of the storm, in stargazing remaining above the interference of the atmosphere, or to have immense carrying capacity cargo-airships": in Italy it seems already an epochal achievement have activated, five years ago, the Amundsen-Nobile Climate Change Tower in the Arctic island Ny-Aalesund. Then there is nothing to laugh for the historical joke of a French soldier who, on arrival of Ferdinand von Zeppelin in a Paris bent to Prussia in 1871, hissed to his fellows: "Behold, that one is really a balloon".

Ferdinand Von Zeppelin

Maybe it depended on the pompous gait inherited from Wuerttenmberg’s counts, or rather the reputation achieved as observer of "French flying weapons", anyway Kaiser’s military genius ended to take so literally those words, he had turned his name into the airship synonymous. Because after a hundred years since the first civil flight in "airship", unlike what happens in Italy, Zeppelin’s myth is alive more than ever. On the shores of Lake Costance, in that Friedrichshafen of the first experiments, the museum named after the Count who loved the clouds remains the best place for tracing the most important history of aviation in the world: exploiting the 4 thousand square meters of beautiful Bauhaus building where the museum is hosted, here the audience may immerse themselves in the life-size reconstruction of the famous "Hindenburg", which marked at the same time the apogee and the decline of the first conquest of the skies, before burning in New York in 1936 (the dramatic image of the incident appears among other things on the cover of the first Led Zeppelins’ album).

In addition to the rooms where other branches of industry resulting from projects Zeppelin are presented, such as aircraft Dornier, Maybach engines or transmissions of ZF, heroes, tragedies and big businesses stories are the real highlights consecrating Zeppelins as a reference model today, after the Count did take off a prototype adapted from David Schwarz's patent, Hungarian aviation pioneer, in 1900. It 's true. The flight over native Lake Constance lasted just 18 minutes, due to the failure of the mechanism that enveloped balance’s weight, but Germany was already on the verge of history: the speed record on French models had been practically doubled, having reached 6 metres per second against 3 metres then set.

Too bad that the coffers of Ferdinand von Zeppelin's promotion company  were empty, although he had personally paid half of the share capital of 800 thousand marks. Completely useless? Not really: it is here that you can possibly grasp the most essential difference between Italian (fickle) flair and German (systematic) wilfulness. The airship was dismantled and they had to wait another six years to observe a new airship in flight, thanks to donations from a special lottery called by air supporters. But if the model LZ2 seemed to affect the start of the construction industry due to an emergency landing on the Allgäu Alps, his immediate successor could well cover 4298 kilometres for 45 flights, projecting finally Germany as world leader in new technologies for aviation. Against the fury of bad luck, which reduced to ashes a prototype finally destined to the army, the Germans rallied around their intrepid Count and again donated the proceeds of a 6 million 100 thousand marks lottery. So Zeppelin Foundation could arise in 1908, the year after the first flight in civilian airships took off and the man began his rise to the stars. So the story goes: good times, bad times.


Silent. Elegant. Reliable. Zeppelin NT are the last generation airships and, thanks to the extraordinary technology developed respect to their forerunners, now offer the opportunity to fly 300 meters high enjoying stunning scenery. In close proximity to Friedrichshafen Zeppelin platforms are still active and from there, between March and October, scenic tours take off to the main destinations on Lake Constance (Lindau, Bregenz, Meersburg ...), going up to Stein am Rhein or the picturesque Salem’s castle, gradually towards the regions of Austrian Vorarlberg or Bavarian Allgäu. On individual trips, as well as on group (up to 20 people), it emerges again the typical atmosphere of luxury "cruises in the air", so that the audience can feel the '30s flavour and taste the same gastronomic specialities in the lounge pavillion on the ground. Flights can last from 30 minutes (200 euro) to over two hours (730 euro), allowing you to explore the towns in the area from a unique perspective, now endorsed by the major production houses of nature documentaries too. More information about routes and flights are available on the website http://www.zeppelinflug.de/en/,  or by going directly to the platforms of ZTL Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH & amp; Co., 132 Allmannsweilerstrasse in Friedrichshafen.

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