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The most successful zeppelin ever built operated commercially from 1928 to 1937

David Goran

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin was a German-built and -operated, passenger-carrying, hydrogen-filled, rigid airship. The Graf saw nearly nine years of uninterrupted service, totalling nearly two years in the air and travelling some 1.7 million kilometres. It was named after the German pioneer of airships, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who was a count (Graf) in the German nobility. During its operating life, the airship made 590 flights covering more than a million miles (1.6 million km). It was designed to be operated by a crew of 36 officers and men. It was scrapped for fighter plane parts in 1940.

Photo of the Graf Zeppelin I over New York City on its first Transatlantic voyage. The airship made an aerial tour of the city before heading for Lakehurst, New Jersey to land, 1928. source

Photo of the Graf Zeppelin I over New York City on its first Transatlantic voyage. The airship made an aerial tour of the city before heading for Lakehurst, New Jersey to land, 1928. source

Although the Graf could achieve a top airspeed of 128 km/h (80 mph, 70 knots) at its maximum thrust of 2,650 horsepower (1,980 kW), its normal operational airspeed was 117 km/h (73 mph, 63 knots) with a thrust of 2,150 horsepower (1,600 kW). Some flights were made using only Blau gas carried in the dozen power gas cells which enabled the airship to cruise for up to 100 hours.

The LZ127 was powered by five Maybach 550 horsepower (410 kW) engines that could burn either Blau gas or gasoline. The ship achieved a maximum speed of 128 kilometres per hour (80 mph, 70 knots) operating at a total maximum thrust of 2,650 horsepower which reduced to the normal cruising speed of 117 km/h (73 mph). source

The LZ127 was powered by five Maybach 550 horsepower (410 kW) engines that could burn either Blau gas or gasoline. The ship achieved a maximum speed of 128 kilometres per hour (80 mph, 70 knots) operating at a total maximum thrust of 2,650 horsepower which reduced to the normal cruising speed of 117 km/h (73 mph). source

Using gasoline alone it was able to cruise for 67 hours, and up to 118 hours using both. The Graf Zeppelin had a total lift capacity of 87,000 kilograms (191,800 lbs) with a usable payload of 15,000 kg (33,000 lbs) on a 10,000 km (6,200 mi) flight.

Many people were needed to hold down the D-LZ127. The ram air turbine electric generator is just under the radio room window. source

Graf Zeppelin made its first flight on September 18, 1928, under the command of Hugo Eckener.  The ship lifted off at 3:32 PM and flew a little over three hours before returning to its base in Friedrichshafen.

Photo of the damaged left horizontal fin of the Graf Zeppelin while in the hangar at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The aircraft sustained the damage while passing through a squall line near Bermuda on its way to the United States. This was the Graf Zeppelin's first transatlantic flight. source

Photo of the damaged left horizontal fin of the Graf Zeppelin while in the hangar at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The aircraft sustained the damage while passing through a squall line near Bermuda on its way to the United States. This was the Graf Zeppelin’s first transatlantic flight. source

On this first transatlantic trip, the airship suffered potentially serious damage to its port tail fin on the third day of the flight when a large section of the linen covering was ripped loose while passing through a mid-ocean squall line at night about 1,500 miles (2,400 km) east of Bermuda.

LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin flew more than a million miles on 590 flights, carrying over 34,000 passengers without a single injury. source

LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin flew more than a million miles on 590 flights, carrying over 34,000 passengers without a single injury. source

In 1929, the Graf made perhaps its most famous flight; a round-the-world voyage covering 21,2500 miles in five legs from Lakehurst to Friedrichshafen, Friedrichshafen to Tokyo, Tokyo to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Lakehurst, and then Lakehurst to Friedrichshafen again.

Zeppelin LZ127 Graf Zeppelin flyby over a seaport town in the Balticum 1930. source

Zeppelin LZ127 Graf Zeppelin flyby over a seaport town in the Baltic c 1930. source

 

Graf Zeppelin flying over the Guanabara Bay, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 25, 1930. source

Graf Zeppelin flying over the Guanabara Bay, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 25, 1930. source

 

Aerial view of the Graf Zeppelin on the airfield at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The airship had just arrived in the US from Brazil, 1930. source

Aerial view of the Graf Zeppelin on the airfield at Lakehurst, New Jersey. The airship had just arrived in the US from Brazil, 1930. source

Graf Zeppelin was over the Canary Islands on the last day of a South American flight from Brazil to Germany when it received news of the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst, New Jersey.  Captain Hans von Schiller withheld the news from his passengers and told them of the disaster only after the ship’s safe landing in Germany.

People watching the landing of Zeppelin LZ 127. source

People watching the landing of Zeppelin LZ 127. source

The ship landed in Friedrichshafen on May 8th, 1937, and never carried a paying passenger again.

Graf Zeppelin bow cap and mooring mast - Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen

Graf Zeppelin bow cap and mooring mast – Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen. source

 

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin port engine. Exhibit in the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen, Seestraße 22, Friedrichshafen, Germany. source

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin port engine. Exhibit in the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen, Seestraße 22, Friedrichshafen, Germany. source

 

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin port engine. Exhibit in the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen. source

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin port engine. Exhibit in the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen. source

 

Exhibit in the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen, Seestraße 22, Friedrichshafen, Germany

LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin port engine. Exhibit in the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen, Seestraße 22, Friedrichshafen, Germany. source

It made only one additional flight, on June 18th, 1937, from Friedrichshafen to Frankfurt, where she remained on display — all her hydrogen removed — until she was broken up on the orders of Hermann Goering’s Luftwaffe in March 1940.