A New Dirigible with Wings (Jul, 1929)

A New Dirigible with Wings

INTENDED to revolutionize air and sea travel, a novel amphibian airship which combines various features of Zeppelin, airplane, and ship construction has been designed by Capt. William F. Cooper of Los Angeles, Cal. The model of his airship which is shown in the photos above is one ninety-sixth the size the air-liner will be when completed. With a wing spread of 200 feet, a length of 800 feet, and a gas-bag diameter of 135 feet, the airship will be the largest and most unusual craft ever to take the air.

The most striking feature of the airship is the arrangement of airplane wings in combination with a rigid gas-bag. These wings are intended not only to give added lifting power to the ship, but they also serve as mounts for the motors and thus the inventor is able to do away with the engine gondolas which hang below the gas bag in such rigid airships as the Los Angeles and Graf Zeppelin. Wheeled landing gear is designed to permit the ship to land on the ground in much the same fashion as an airplane.

The amphibian airship is equally at home on water as on land, for its hull is designed for travel on the surface of the sea when desired, at a rate of speed far in excess of ordinary ocean liners. Thirteen propellers, driven by seven motors, comprise the power plant. The twin propellers on the wings are driven by single engines geared up to drive them in pairs.

A crew of 25 and a passenger list of 125 will be accommodated by the ship. Helium gas—8,500,000 cubic feet of it—will be used in filling the gas bag. Radio, smoking rooms, and other travel luxuries are promised the passengers in his ship by Captain Cooper. The inventor was formerly an Alaskan mail carrier.

  1. kedamono says: March 10, 20119:24 am

    Didin’t the Three Stooges have one of these in one of their movies?

  2. John says: March 10, 20119:39 am
  3. kedamono says: March 10, 201110:04 am

    Yup, that’s the one. It looks highly impractical. I was expecting to see a badminton court on the top.

  4. John M Hanna says: March 10, 20114:49 pm

    I swear I saw that in an old episode of ‘Talespin’.

  5. Timaay says: March 10, 20115:56 pm

    The first thing that comes to my mind is that even at top speed the wings would be pretty useless other than a place to hang the engines. Obviously the person who built this model was not much of an engineer. I wonder though, would the cubic feet of the of the hydrogen have been enough to lift this beast off the ground?

    Like a lot of people, I’ve always thought that airship technology was never explored to its fullest potential. I always get a kick out of these fanciful designs.

  6. John says: March 10, 20116:01 pm

    Timaay: It says helium in the article by the way.

  7. Daniel Rutter says: March 10, 20118:06 pm

    I think the basic numbers would work out well enough – 8.5 million cubic feet of helium is, unless I’ve slipped a digit, good for 268 tonnes of lift; that’s a bit more helium than the Hindenburg had hydrogen, and this airship’s about the same length as the Hindenburg. It could perhaps be deliberately set up to never have enough gas lift to exceed its weight, even when sunlight heated it up and caused the gas to expand; that problem was one of the major ones facing conventional dirigibles, which carried substantial ballast and routinely dumped a lot of gas to keep themselves neutral.

    (This is also the reason for the fragility of submarines, which all still have “lighter than air” designs. Several people have suggested a heavier-than-water submarine built monstrously solidly from thick metal or concrete, which “flies” underwater by brute power – probably nuclear – in the same way that heavier-than-air aircraft operate.)

    All of the bored-child-doodles of extra stuff strapped onto the airship core, though, would clearly present some problems. The wings would have to be very lightly loaded since they couldn’t be very sturdily built or very sturdily connected to the airship’s frame, without making it too heavy. Keeping the thing on an even keel in windy weather could be rather challenging; if the wings on one side caught more wind than the wings on the other, the whole monster could roll over, or get into some terrifying long-period flutter behaviour and rip itself apart.

    Likewise the ship hull would have to be rather flimsier than that of a normal flying boat – but in this gigantic contraption, that could leave the whole thing folding up or breaking apart in even slightly rough seas. Air-propeller propulsion for watercraft is also a lousy way to do it; hovercraft and swamp boats do it not because it works well, but because they can’t have submerged props.

    This thing’d be a brilliant candidate for recreation as an R/C model, though. With much greater strength from scale construction, it might fly quite well!

  8. reed says: March 10, 201110:09 pm

    More recent proposals along these lines make use a lifting shape for the airship itself instead of wings. E.g. and http://www.hybridairveh… and http://www.aviationweek…

    These are generally proposed to run heavier than air as Dan suggests.

  9. Timmay says: March 11, 20116:47 pm

    Awesome comments! Thanks for the links

  10. Sean says: March 12, 20114:20 pm

    You’re correct on your math, Daniel, but there’s no way that that hull could hold 8.5 million cubic feet. The Hindenburg was just a shade over 800ft long, and much broader in beam than that ship. Plus, you have the enormous amount of that model that’s given over to passenger cabins and (though I doubt the inventor thought of this) framing to hold those wings.

    Many, if not most modern designs do use a hull shaped as a lifting body to allow for greater speed and use of less gas. Most of them do run at slightly positive net weight.

  11. Mcubstead says: March 13, 20112:49 pm

    The text claims 13 props and seven motors??, Given the motor tech of the time, the weight of the drive linkages and trying to keep the prop RPM balanced would have been a unique challenge in its self.

    I notice most of the inventions I see posted from this magazine seem to be MODELS. Does anyone know if this magazine ever reported on an invention put into service? I think they should have named themselves Modern Theoretical Mechanics.
    Not complaining about it, I’m just noticing / wondering.

  12. Toronto says: March 13, 20114:26 pm

    McUb: Heck, even the Wright Flyer used a transmission to drive multiple props from a single engine, and their engine was incredibly light for its time. (Of course, they used “bicycle chain” as their transmission.)

  13. Mcubstead says: March 14, 20117:59 pm

    Toronto : True, multiple props were not uncommon of the times, or even today, I was thinking of the size of these props and the distance between them.

    But all of us missed the worst mistake on this thing:

    The giant radio towers and antenna array!!!
    Enormous drag from those towers.
    They would have to be built strong & heavy enough to tension that long of a cable.
    What possible purpose would having an elevated antenna array on an airship serve?
    How much range increase would an extra 50ft get you if you are already flying at 5000?

    I also remembered something else. I read some place that Zeppelin demonstrated mathematically the need to place the line of propulsion parallel to the center line of mass, and below the centerline of the cross section. The premise being the need to control the airship at approach and departure out weighed the inconvenience of having a pitch up under hard accretion.

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