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Dirigible Dreams: The Age of the Airship by…

Dirigible Dreams: The Age of the Airship

by C. Michael Hiam

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The age of the airship was brief -- 25 years, 30 at the most -- and its heyday was even briefer: a few years around 1930 when the British R100 crossed the Atlantic to Canada; the Graf Zeppelin began her 9-year, million-mile career; and the Akron and Macon, single-engined fighter planes stowed in their onboard hangers, scouted for the US fleet. Soon enough, though, it began to unravel. Akron and Macon both crashed into the sea, Britain abandoned airships (and R100 was broken up for scrap) after the tragically overweight R101 plowed into a French hillside. The Graf Zeppelin lasted, and her stablemate Hindenburg put in a successful season of Atlantic crossings before the first flight of her second year of service ended in a fireball at Lakehurst. The Hindenburg disaster took Germany's airship program, and the Graf Zeppelin, down with it, but the day of the airship was already ending: brought to a close by faster, more economical airplanes.

It's been several decades since Douglas Botting's The Great Airships last surveyed this story, and more than half-a-century since John Toland's The Great Dirigibles emerged as the standard introduction. Hiam tells the story for the 21st century, from the early experiments of Zeppelin and Santos-Dumont through the end of the dream in the late 1930s. The emphasis is as much on the quirky visionaries behind the airship as on the technology itself, but that seems as fitting as the title: The airship, in retrospect, was always a machine for dreamers. ( )
  ABVR | Mar 3, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Many a splendid thing is ruined by politics. Details the inception and brief heyday of the Zeppelin encompassing its military, civilian, and polar exploratory uses and the numerous ensuing disasters. What an awkward, yet interesting branch of aviation history. ( )
  dandelionroots | Jun 15, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As a child, I was always excited whenever the Goodyear Blimp would fly overhead, the thought of there being people aboard a flying balloon set my imagination to new heights. Dirigible Dreams gives us the history of the great airships, from the groundbreaking work of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, to the ill-fated Hindenburg disaster, which brought about the demise of airships as viable modes of transport.

This was a highly entertaining as well as educational an education read. Recommended for lovers of history, aviation, and technology.

Read the full review in The Thugbrarian Review @ http://wp.me/p4pAFB-rC ( )
  Archivist13 | Mar 7, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book free through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. Hiam details the history of rigid airships - or dirigibles - from their earliest innovation in that turn of the 20th century through World War II. Great Britain, France, Italy, the United States, and most of all Germany put a lot of effort into programs to build airships. Stories of airships used for Arctic exploration, warfare, and commercial travel are related. Mostly though, dirigibles seemed to be prone to crashing and/or blowing up. After 40 years of disaster, it's not a surprise that the airship era came to an end. They still seem pretty cool though. Hiam's writing is a bit dry, but the text is lit up by some engaging stories of dirigible dreams and nightmares. ( )
  Othemts | Jan 26, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Between balloons and modern aviation, there was a time when airships were the up and coming thing. See, balloons were easy and reliable, but hostage to the wind - you went where Nature wanted you to go. Aircraft were small, persnickety, and downright dangerous. Airships, though, could carry passengers across an ocean in days instead of weeks, and represented luxury in the air the way ocean liners did on the water.

Well, except they had a pretty storied history. The first efforts failed pretty miserably; a big bag of hydrogen attached to a frame requiring motors that did run very well, if at all, was recipe for explosions. Still, the military and exploration uses of controlled flight were so tempting, governments and companies kept sinking huge amounts of money into development - until a disaster would turn off interest in further work. Eventually, only the Germans were left producing Zeppelins - and everybody knows what happened to the Hindenburg, right?

Hism's history is a good one. It's well written, and lends interesting insight into the people and times. For instance, I had no idea that several attempts were made to reach the North Pole with airships, including one venture that killed Roald Amundson. Dirigible Dreams is a nice introduction to this unique field. ( )
  drneutron | Dec 26, 2014 |
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Here is the story of airships--manmade flying machines without wings--from their earliest beginnings to the modern era of blimps. In postcards and advertisements, the sleek, silver, cigar-shaped airships, or dirigibles, were the embodiment of futuristic visions of air travel. They immediately captivated the imaginations of people worldwide, but in less than fifty years dirigible became a byword for doomed futurism, an Icarian figure of industrial hubris. Dirigible Dreams looks back on this bygone era, when the future of exploration, commercial travel, and warfare largely involved the prospect of wingless flight.… (more)

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