No, not Led Zeppelin, as has been much hyped, but their inspiration – actual airships – may make a comeback. A significant group within the air transport industry is lobbying for development that could bring these colossal beauties back to our skies again, and make air travel greener for all.

Last month, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference took place outside the US for the first time in history. Ninety of the most influential players in the aircraft industry came together in Belfast, School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering chosen because of the connections with Bombardier Aerospace, the Queen’s University, Belfast, and with Invest Northern Ireland.


Although it is often pointed out by defenders of the jet-engined commercial aircraft that we are now used to that the airline industry contributes only about 3 percent of total greenhouse gases, the problem is the rate of increase. According to Sunita Narain, Director of the European Centre for Science and Environment, “The airline sector is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. In Europe it is estimated that emissions from air travel increased by 73 percent between 1990 and 2003 and are spiraling upwards.” Aircraft industry giant, Boeing, estimates that the number of aircraft will double in just over a decade.


Airships come in many different types, some rigid framed, like the original Zeppelin, others inflatable, like the famous Goodyear Blimp. They may be lighter than air, filled with hydrogen or helium, or heavier and using hybrid thrust and lift technologies. Since they are far less polluting than jet-engined craft, airships of all kinds are thought by some to be the real future of air transport. Modern advancements in lightweight materials and renewable fuel technology make these icon craft more realistic. If you are in any doubt, and have some spare time, it is absolutely fascinating to read through the list of US patents for airships. There’s also a fascinating blog on the subject here, with loads of links and pictures.


With modern technology now available to airship designers, some truly incredible designs are out there, and companies dedicated to their development. Take a look at the Aeros vision for freight and passenger airships, and then some amazing machines inspired by zoology, like the Festo Air Ray, and see a mind-blowing video of a prototype in action. Patents have even been granted for advertising and broadcasting video airships, and spherical blimps carrying LEDs all over the surface able to transmit pictures of live sporting events.


Seeing just how much imagination and innovation is going on in this field, I’m pretty convinced that these wonderful contraptions really will exist, maybe not next year or the year after, but very probably well within my lifetime. I’d be tempted to say the sky’s the limit, if it weren’t for Globetel Stratellite stratospheric communication airships, and even as possibilities for exploration of planetary objects. Have a trawl through the links and be inspired. Enjoy!




  1. 1 Rob October 10, 2007 at 2:56 am

    Visit the Globetel Page on wikistock to keep up on the latest with Globetel :

  2. 2 jamesgoodman October 10, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Forum for the Future is also tipping airships for a comeback in the next 15 years. 20 hours from London to New York, and with fully equipped business suites on board including videoconferencing (so you can work as effectively en route as in the office), plus a bar, plus 360 degree views… have a look at our mock advert trailing airships here

  3. 3 captainburan October 11, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    ZEPPELIN – rules! 🙂

  1. 1 Led Zeppelin News » Blog Archive » CRAZY WEDNESDAY: RETURN OF THE ZEPPELIN Trackback on October 10, 2007 at 6:32 am
  2. 2 » CRAZY WEDNESDAY: RETURN OF THE ZEPPELIN Trackback on October 10, 2007 at 2:27 pm

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