Rediscovering the arcane science of ground handling large airships : an investigation into ways of reducing the risks inherent in the development of a new generation of very large airships and of establishing guidelines for their ground handling procedure

Camplin, G. (2007). Rediscovering the arcane science of ground handling large airships : an investigation into ways of reducing the risks inherent in the development of a new generation of very large airships and of establishing guidelines for their ground handling procedure. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)

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Abstract

This research, which was begun as part of the now defunct CargoLifter project, concerns the ground handling and support systems of the large rigid airships (commonly known as "Zeppelins") that were built between 1900 and 1940. The intention was to assess the value of such historical information as has survived from the previous generation of very large airships in order to minimise the physical and financial risks inherent in the development of any future generations of such aircraft. The idea was to isolate and understand the fundamental issues that were actually encountered by the ground based personnel responsible for looking after the various British, German, American and Italian airships of the previous generation, and to gather as much information as possible about the techniques and operational procedures that were devised, tried and tested in the field. This information would then be used to establish guidelines for future projects that are based on real experience rather than on prediction, assumption or theory. Sadly, the CargoLifter project foundered in 2002; however the author had by then amassed sufficient research material for him to complete the study independently and to present it as a guide for the ground handling of hitherto unrealised concepts such as the proposed new "Transport category" or "CargoLifter" type large airships. Such practical skills as those required by airship ground crew personnel are normally passed on by firsthand instruction from one experienced practitioner to the trainee. This option is not available for the next generation of very large airships because there are no personnel alive today with any operational experience of the previous generation of really large airships. The problem therefore is to examine the historical records and to evaluate the written information in order to interpret it and pass on knowledge that will reduce the risk of future generations wasting their time in "re-inventing the wheel. " In the course of the study it was found that historical research (HR) enabled the results of the pre-war prototype projects to be usefully assessed despite the fact that very little of the material was written with that end in view. More specifically the analysis of historical airship activities (AHAA) revealed that it was possible to retrieve a considerable amount of lost or forgotten knowledge concerning the ground handling of very large airships, also to unearth ideas that were ahead of their time, which might be applicable today or in the future; and in addition to identify several areas worthy of further investigation (e. g. ideas that were rejected at the time but which may now be feasible due to technological progress). The research and analysis also uncovered some ideas and suggested solutions which are fundamentally flawed and that should be avoided by designers of large airships and their support systems. The work includes a detailed analysis of the tasks involved in the ground handling of very large airships and concludes with a suggested strategy for all those intent upon the design and planning of ground support infrastructures for any further large airship development projects either today or in the future.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Divisions: School of Engineering & Mathematical Sciences
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/8521

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