By the time that the Hindenburg left Germany on its fateful flight, many were lauding airships as the future of long-distance travel. In fact, the excitement surrounding these unlikely craft had begun at the turn of the century, when the German-built Zeppelin LZ 1 successfully took to the skies.
Significantly, it would be another three years before the Wright brothers would achieve powered flight in their prototype airplane. However, the vast airships took a different approach. A type of lighter-than-air craft, they used a lifting gas – a substance with less density than the air around it – in order to take off.
In the years between the First and Second World Wars, Britain and the United States joined Germany in producing airships for military use. And although the latter’s output was initially limited by the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, these restrictions were eventually lifted in 1925. Three years after that, the Graf Zeppelin was launched – the first commercial aircraft to offer a transatlantic flight.