During the early 1930's, the rigid airship was potentially the Queen of the Skies. The design, manufacturing, and operational techniques and the facilities had been developed over a 30-year span to the point where the airship easily exceeded contemporary airplanes in range and payload, and even productivity as well. Through a combination of circumstances, failures, and political expediencies, development of the rigid airship was terminated while development of the airplane and its propulsion systems accelerated at a tremendous pace.
There has been a number of attempts throughout the world in recent years to initiate airship development. The need for reduced energy usage and lowering of pollution, coupled with the need for transporting large, heavy, indivisible loads, do appear on the surface to be satisfied by the unique characteristics of the airship. The Boeing Vertol Company, as part of its diversification efforts, has attempted to shed some light on the feasibility of advanced airships in the long-range, freight-transport operations of today and tomorrow.
This paper examines the lighter-than-air situation today, presents a historical overview of the airship, and discusses the possible uses for future airship concepts. Technical and operational characteristics of conventional and hybrid concepts are discussed, as well as results of a parametric analysis of advanced airship concepts indicating speed and cost trends of both conventional rigid and partially buoyant, hybrid airship concepts.