LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin

LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin

The "Graf Zeppelin" (LZ 130, German: _de. "Luftschiff Zeppelin 130") was the last of the great German rigid airships built by the Zeppelin Luftschiffbau during the period between the World Wars, the second and final ship of the "Hindenburg" class. She was the second ship to carry the name "Graf Zeppelin" (after the LZ 127), and thus she is often referred to as "Graf Zeppelin II".

Design and development

The design of LZ-130 incorporated a few improvements over the design of the "Hindenburg". Most visibly, the engine pods were completely redesigned, using diesel engines powering tractor propellers (the aft port engine was the only one to have a three bladed prop). The engines had a water recovery system which captured the exhaust of the engines to minimize weight lost during flight. The passenger decks were also completely redesigned; the restaurant was moved to the middle of the quarters and the promenade windows were half a panel lower. The 16 gas cells were lightened and one was made of lightweight silk instead of cotton. The doping compound for the outer fabric covering was also changed, bronze and graphite were added to prevent flammability and also improved the outer covering's electrical conductivity. With these improvements, LZ-130 can be regarded as the most technologically advanced rigid airship ever flown.

The "Graf Zeppelin II" was originally designed to use hydrogen as lifting gas. After the "Hindenburg" disaster, however, Hugo Eckener vowed never to use hydrogen in a passenger airship again. Instead, he planned to use helium (which had also originally been planned as the lifting gas for the "Hindenburg"). The only source of helium in large enough quantities was in the United States, so Eckener went to Washington, D.C. to lobby for helium for his airships. He visited President Roosevelt himself, who promised to supply helium, but only for peaceful purposes. After the annexation of Austria in March 1938, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes refused to supply helium, and the "Graf Zeppelin II" was ultimately inflated with hydrogen.

Construction Timeline

23 June 1936 - The keel of the airship was laid and the main rings were fastened onto the roof of the hangar.

14 February 1937 - The nose cone was installed. In the same month, the fabric was also applied over the framework.

6 May 1937 - The Hindenburg catches fire over its landing field at Lakehurst. Since at the beginning of 1937 for the maiden voyage after Rio de Janeiro one had already recruited, who was set for 27 October 1937.

15 August 1938 - Inflation began on gas cells.

20 August 1938 - Engines and electrical connections are tested.

22 August 1938 - The radio communication system is tested.

14 September 1938 the ship was christened and flew the first time. Unlike the christening of the "Hindenburg", only Zeppelin Company officials and Hermann Goring were present; no other government representatives came to the christening to congratulate Eckener. The speech held Dr. Eckener.

14 November 1938 - By the time the "Graf Zeppelin II" was completed, it was obvious that the ship would never serve its intended purpose as a passenger liner; the lack of a supply of inert helium was one cause. The Reich Air Ministry permitted the "Graf Zeppelin" to fly for one year until 1 September 1939 “without any transportation of passengers and outside from tropical areas”.

Operational history

In total, the Graf Zeppelin made thirty flights:Editors of German wikipedia article http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/LZ_130, freely translated]

Flights 1 to 7

1. 14 September 1938 - The maiden voyage took place immediately after the christening of the ship under the command of Dr. Hugo Eckener. The ship took off from Friedrichshafen at 7:50 with 74 people mainly Air Ministry, and Zeppelin Company officials on board. Also onboard were the builders, technicians and engineers of the airship. The engines were only started after the airship reached a height of approximately 100 m. The "Graf Zeppelin" flew across Munich, Augsburg and Ulm and returned the Friedrichshafen at 1:30 PM, travelling a total of 925 kilometres. Hugo Eckener described the trip as "satisfying" and "successful."

2. 17 September - 18 September 1938 - The second trip was a 26-hour test trip under the command of Dr. Hugo Eckener and Captain Hans von Schiller with a total of 85 persons on board. It started at 8:08 AM on 17 September 1938. The morning was spent over the Bodensee with different measurements. At noon the ship flew north towards Stuttgart at 12:15 and Frankfurt am Main at 13:15, and then towards Eisenach and Eisleben. Towards evening Berlin was reached. After many circuits at low altitude the Graf started towards Hamburg. Over the outer-Elbe-estuary in the Wadden Sea further calibrations and tests were made. Afterwards it flew a direct course over Minden towards Frankfurt am Main and then towards Bodensee. There, the airship had to fly a large loop over Friedrichshafen, because the airfield lay in fog. At 10:17, LZ 130 landed after covering 2,388 km, and shortly before 11 o'clock was brought back into the Löwenthaler hangar.

3. 22 September 1938 - The third trial flight; 8:13 - 19:30 1215-km loop over Munich and Vienna and back again.

4. 25 September 1938 - Launch approx. 11:00 under Captain Hans von Schiller (duration approx. 7 h, 764 km, 40 crew members, 34 passengers and technicians). Tests at high altitude were made. Almost the whole trip took place at an altitude of about 2,000 m, without needing to valve much gas. Further atmospheric-electrical tests were made.

5. 27 September 1938 - eleven hours of trip duration, on behalf of the Reich Air Ministry (RLM). At the airport and airship-port "Rhein-Main" a radio beacon was set up. The idea was to attempt a "Funkbeschickung" (a calibration of the direction-finding equipment). Hazy air hindered the attempts despite good weather conditions. The calibration did not succeed perfectly - these problems arose even at later attempts. There were also first successes with the "Ballastwassergewinnungsanlage" (a water recovery system to save ballast). Three and a half tonnes of ballast water could be saved and the engines ran quieter because of the sound-absorbing effect of the device.

6 28 September 1938 - Further test flight on behalf of the RLM under Captain Sammt. Among other things, the test was intended to investigate whether electrostatic charges caused the Hindenburg disaster. Therefore it was especially flown during thunderstorms. Flights during normal weather conditions brought no useful results. The ship was flown into the stormfront slack (gas cells under-expanded), to prevent the over-pressure valves releasing hydrogen. The trip lasted nearly 26 hours; covering over 2,500 km. The ballast water recovery system fulfilled the engineers' expectations by producing about nine tons of water.

7. 31 October 1938 launch around 2:15 under the command of Captain Sammt. This was simultaneously the last inspection flight and the transfer flight to "Flug- und Luftschiffhafen Frankfurt am Main" (the airship port at Frankfurt am Main). It landed after nearly 25 hours, covering over 2,100 km around 15:10. The airship and the crew were welcomed by "Gauleiter" Sprenger at the new home port. After this trip LZ 130 on 14 November 1938 received the "Luftschiff-Zulassungsschein" (airship registration document). Thus it was certified for air traffic and registered in the German "Luftfahrzeugrolle" (aircraft register), however with the restriction of no carriage of passengers.

Flight 8 - "Sudetenlandfahrt"

8. “Sudetenlandfahrt” - This flight, also known as the "Sudetenduetsch Freiheitsfahrt 1938", was made at the behest of the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda ("Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda" or "Propagandaministerium". After the popular vote resulted in a large majority for Hitler and the NSDAP many propaganda channels were used - including a Zeppelin flight over the "befreiten Gebiete" (liberated regions). On board were 62 crew members and 7 passengers, among them military officers. The launch occurred on 2 December 1938 shortly after 10 o'clock. Over Reichenberg (present-day Liberec), capital of Sudetenland, over which LZ 130 floated exactly at Hitler's visit, were thrown out small parachutes with swastika flags and handbills with the text "Dein JA dem Führer!" ("Your YES for the leader"). LZ 130's loudspeakers played music and National Socialist propaganda for the forthcoming December 4 elections. Afterwards LZ 130 flew to the Reichenberg airfield and dropped 663 kg of postally cacheted souvenir mails (see image above). Worsening weather hindered further flight, therefore after some time it was decided to turn back. After the ship left the Sudetenland, it came into low cloud and snow showers. It started to ice up. Later, the propellers blew broken-off ice shards through the ship's outer envelope. However, the crew immediately repaired the damage. At 17:46 the Zeppelin landed without problem in gusty winds and was brought into the airship hangar.

Flights 9 to 23

9. 1939-01-13 launched at 9:08, commanded by captain Sammt, different tests were performed. Duration: 7 hours and 523 km

10. 1939-04-13 Among other things, radio- and spy basket tests were performed. The trip lasted approximately 30 hours and covered nearly 2,700 km.

11. 1939-06-15 Duration: 28 hours; 2,800 km

12. and 13. "Meiningenfahrt" 1939-07-02; 18:40 landing at Meiningen airfield, flew back to Frankfurt am Main at 19:22.

14. and 15. "Leipzigfahrt" (Leipzig trip) 9 July 1939; among other things landing in Leipzig-Mockau airfield with post office delivery

16. "Nordseefahrt" (North Sea trip) launch: 1939-07-12 22:25

17. and 18. "Görlitzfahrt" (Görlitz trip) launch: 1939-08-16 00:34 under captain Sammt

19. 20., and 21. "Bielefeld-Münster-Fahrt" (Bielefeld-Münster trip)

22. and 23. "Kasselfahrtt" (Kassel trip)

Flight 24 - "Spionagefahrt"

24. The "Spionagefahrt" ("espionage trip") of 2 to 4 August 1939, taking over 48 hours and covering 4.203 km, was the longest trip the LZ 130 made. The main goal was to secretly collect information on the English Chain Home radar system. To do this the airship flew northwards close to the British east coast up to the Shetland Isles and back. On board were 45 crew and 28 measurement personnel. Lift off was on 1939-08-02 around 20:53, and it overflew Hildesheim at 23:38, seen by very few people.Schütz, Michael. [http://www.stadtarchiv-hildesheim.de/publikationen/dok_19_zeppeline.htm Zeppeline über Hildesheim] , Hildesheim city archive. Last accessed 2008-08-02]

The memoirs of Albert Sammt, "Mein Leben für den Zeppelin" (translation: "My life for the zeppelin") written by Dr. Ernst Breuning, describes this trip in chapter "Mit LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin auf Funkhorch- und Funkortungsfahr" (translation: "with the LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin on the radio-listening and radiolocation trip").

These memoirs detailed the spying trip of 2 to 4 August 1939 when a radio-measuring spy basket was used. He flew the LZ 130 up Britain's east coat to the Shetland Isles and flew slowly back, stopping the engines at Aberdeen (pretending they had engine failure) in order to investigate strange antenna masts. As a free balloon they drifted westwards over the land and for the first time sighted and photographed the new Supermarine Spitfires, which circled the airship.Sammt 1988]

On the evening of 4 August as they neared Frankfurt on their return from this trip they were warned on longwave radio that landing was not yet possible. They first suspected an aeroplane had crashed at the site, but on overflying saw nothing amiss. They turned and flew towards the Rh%C3%B6n Mountains and on asking, were informed "landing before dusk not possible". They decided to return to Frankfurt and speak directly with the "Landemannschaft" (landing team) using the "UKW" transmitter, so that the French wouldn't overhear and so that they could use Schwäbisch to speak to Beurle, the landing team leader.

Beurle informed them they must not land yet because the English had lodged a diplomatic protest over their actions. Furthermore an English delegation was at the airfield, with agreement of the German government, to inspect the ship. They were under suspicion. Beurle told them to wait while they think of something.

Shortly, the LZ 130 received the advice: hide all the measuring instruments in the ship; don't land at the usual well-lit landing-cross where a landing team is waiting, but land at the other end where the "real" landing team is waiting and will make itself known with light signals; after landing let the Breuning people out and let a "SA-Sturm" on as pretend-crew.

So, the English were waiting at the false landing place, and were told that for meteorological reasons the airship had to land at another part of the airfield. By the time the English crossed the airfield to the airship, the "real" crew was on a bus on their way to their hotel. The English searched the ship, found nothing suspicious, neither in the ship nor in the false SA-crew.

Dr Breuning explained that the trip's results were negative, and not because the British radar was switched off, as Churchill wrote in his memoirs. The German General Martini used a strong, impulsive, broadband radio transmission for determining the "radio-weather", the best wavelengths to use for radio. These impulses severely disturbed the highly sensitive receivers in the 10-12 metre waveband. Dr. Ernst Breuning wrote that he repeatedly requested Martini to stop transmitting during the spy trips, to no avail. This made it impossible for the LZ 130 to investigate the very wavebands the British were using.

Flights 25 to 30

25. and 26. "Würzburgfahrt" (Würzburg trip) 1939-08-05Fact|date=July 2008

27. and 28. "Egerfahrt" (Eger trip) 1939-08-13 29 and 30. The last trip, the so-called "Essen/Mülheim-Fahrt" (Essen/Mülheim trip), took place on 1939-08-20. The departure and destination was Frankfurt am Main with an intermediate stop at Essen/Mülheim Airport (IATA code: ESS), commanded by Albert Sammt. This trip (landing at 21:38) meant the end of large airship transport.

"Graf Zeppelin II" In Color

Along with the Hindenburg, which was photographed once in 1936 and the burning wreckage in 1937, the "Graf Zeppelin II" is the only zeppelin that has been filmed in color. Several color photographs of the airship survive [Andreas Krug. [http://www.luftschiff.de/1_luftschiffe/lz130/1_130.htm www.luftschiff.de Photos] , last accessed 2008-07-01] , as well as color footage shot by Harold G. Dick of the ship over Friedrichshafen. The latter was shown in the 2001 documentary "Hindenburg Disaster: Probable Cause", but was mistaken for colour footage of the Hindenburg.

The End of the Airships

In April 1940, Hermann Göring issued the order to scrap both "Graf Zeppelins" and the unfinished framework of LZ 131, since the metal was needed for other aircraft. By April 27, work crews had finished cutting up the airships. On May 6, the enormous airship hangars in Frankfurt were leveled by explosives, three years to the day after the destruction of the "Hindenburg".


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ee also

see also=
similar aircraft=
* List of Zeppelins


*Sammt, Albert. 1988. "Mein Leben für den Zeppelin", Verlag Pestalozzi Kinderdorf Wahlwies 1988, ISBN 3-921583-02-0 - [http://www.luftschiffharry.de/doku/LZ_130_Spionagefahrt.pdf pages 167-168] extract covering LZ 130's spying trip from 2 to 4 August 1939, (German) (pdf)

External links

* [http://www.ezep.de/index.html eZEP.de] — The webportal for Zeppelin mail and airship memorabilia
* [http://www.ezep.de/zsg/zsg.html Zeppelin Study Group] — Research group for airship memorabilia and Zeppelin mail
* [http://www.britishpathe.com/thumbnails.php?id=31047&searchword=Graf%20Zeppelin&searchword=Graf%20Zeppelin GRAF ZEPPELIN - MAIDEN FLIGHT 19/09/1938] British Pathe Free Preview of maiden flight, Film ID: 981.27

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