The age of the airship was short lived.
It lasted scarcely more than a a quarter of a century and during that time very few of these elegant and enormous machines survived very long. There are only a handful that survived the rigors of flight to be broken up. Most were destroyed by fire, accident, storm or carelessness and yet as the author of this marvelous book, Len Deighton, says:
For me the airship has a magic that the aeroplane cannot replace. The size is awesome, the shape Gothic; a pointed arch twirled into a tracery of Aluminum... the airship remains one of the greatest triumphs of structural engineering the world has ever seen.This slim volume, written and compiled by Len Deighton and Arnold Schwartzman, is a chronicle of every airship disaster, accident, crash, and explosion. Although a chronicle of dismay it is in a sense also the chronicle of an experiment in engineering magnificence. Even in the grainy black and white images of the twisted and broken girders, torn envelopes, and flaming wreckage there is elegance. The immense labour of the design, the intricacy of the parts, and the bravery of those who would dare to take such vehicles into the skies, are apparent.
In this book, with the help of experts, I have told the story of the airship's failure. It shows the daunting task that the airship designer faced. Perhaps all simple acts of faith bear an imprint of absurdity, and you will find it here. But the book is intended as a tribute to the master builders and their aluminum marvels. This generation of engineers dared to build their cathedrals in the sky; no wonder then that so few of them stayed there.Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.
Jonathan Cape Ltd