November 8, 2019 – Airships lost out to conventional aircraft after a series of disastrous crashes. But now safer technology could be the key to their return.
Zeppelins fill the skies of Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials. The giant airships of his parallel universe carry the mail, transport soldiers into battle and explorers to the Arctic. What was once my local post office in Oxford is in Pullman’s fantasy – a zeppelin station where I could catch the evening airship to London.
When I put the books down the reality is rather disappointing. A handful of smaller airships can be found flying proudly across the United States on promotional tours for brands like Goodyear and Carnival Cruise Line. Last year, a blimp demeaned itself by setting two world records, including one for the fastest text on a touch screen mobile phone while water skiing behind a blimp. A few more are employed to fly well-heeled tourists on sight-seeing trips over the German countryside. Another can be found flying over the Amazon. And that’s about it.