Friedrichshafen hosted the 10th biennial international airship convention and exhibition organised by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Luft-und Raumfahrt (DGLR) and the Airship Association in conjunction with Aero Friedrichshafen.
Over 70 delegates attended with representation from 15 countries: Australia, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK and the USA. One additional surprising but very welcome attendee came from California virtual basis via some sophisticated video linking equipment.
The convention started with a reception hosted by Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik in their hangar with one of their Zeppelin-NT 07 airships featured as a centre piece to the function.>Thomas Brand, (Gesschaftsfuhrer Zeppelin) gave a welcoming speech. He welcomed those attending the convention and highlighted the continued role on the Zeppelin company in the airship world and welcomed the recent resurrection of the partnership with Goodyear in the USA. Rob Knotts as Chairman of the Airship Association responded by thanking those concerned with organising the convention. He also stated that the airship world faces some very exciting challenges and opportunities in the future with a number of companies working on projects to develop cargo carrying airships. He also stated that the role of airships in humanitarian relief is long overdue. Not to be forgotten were countries and companies that have kept the spirit of airships alive; there are at least 30 airship companies manufacturing and working on a number of projects throughout the world.
21 papers were presented covering a variety of topics (see Conference Web-Site). Student projects, matters of controversial debate such as the viability of variable buoyancy, opportunities for cargo delivery in Canada and Russia, solar powered airship design, issues that have to be addressed in managing airship gas systems. The need to analyse and present airship operating costs and the economics of distributing food to isolated communities in Northern Canada highlighted that airships have to be operated as a business enterprise. Two papers were presented on engineering and operational issues associated with the Zeppelin N07. One refreshing paper about an idea to design, build and operate an airship to act as a flying classroom for young people took thinking of what is normally associated with traditional topics in our conventions totally outside of the box; it was a very welcome idea from a young person who until recently had never seen an airship.
Following the first day of the convention a dinner was held in the hall in the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen under the mock-up of the Hindenburg passenger lounge. The Chair of the Zeppelin Foundation gave a welcoming speech and the Airship Association’s chairman designate Nigel Hills replied. During the dinner, Herr Philip Nikenig of DGLR took the opportunity to present Dr Bernd Sträter with the DGLR's prestigious "Otto Lilienthal Medal" for lifetime services to aviation.
An airship regatta attracted a number of competition entries and also a large audience from the attendees of the Aero Friedrichshafen general aviation exhibition taking place around the convention. The onlookers were delighted by the antics of 5 models competing in acts of duration and manoeuvrability.
Important to the convention were two plenary sessions held. One addressed the future needs of the Airship Association while the other tackled issues needed to assist to assist the airship industry as a whole.
A major issue raised in considering the future needs of the Association was that of the website. It was viewed that the younger generation could be attracted to the Association if it fully exploited the opportunities offered by social media technology. Also existing older members could benefit from a much more media friendly approach. Such was the impact of the issue that during his return flight to the UK the current chairman drafted a lengthy document outlining ideas for the future of the website and the use of social media technology. Watch this space!
The second plenary session focused on a need to persuade regulatory authorities that hydrogen needs to be resurrected as a buoyancy gas. Academic institutions, together with airship manufacturers must lobby Governments in a quest to readdress the issue of hydrogen as a buoyancy gas. Research into phlegamatised additives in hydrogen designed to quell the associated dangers of combustion may offer reassurances about the future use of hydrogen. Education was also seen as one major area that needs to be tackled if airships are to make headway. There is a need to increase exposure to the future of airships by developing an airship technology culture in universities and colleges throughout the world. The Airship Association has plans to help achieve this. Finally the need to fully understand the economics of manufacturing and operating airships was discussed as essential to the industry.
The convention is viewed as big a great success. It ended on a note where the location of the next one should be. In addition to Alaska, Canada and Russia offering a market for future airships Asia is also viewed as offering major opportunities for airship business. Thus it was suggested that an ideal location for the next convention would be at a point that bridges the two halves of the globe, namely India. On that note “Onwards and Upwards!”