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September 24, 1852: first flight of a powered airship

The inventor exploited hydrogen and carbon coke

Airship is destined to exert a timeless charm for a long time to come and today is the perfect opportunity to deepen a piece of its history. On September 24, 1852, exactly 168 years ago, the first motor-driven airship completed its voyage from Paris to Trappes; it was just under 30 kilometers covered in about three hours that managed to make people understand what this aircraft would be in the following years. It was the "Giffard Dirigible", in honor of French engineer Jules Henri Giffard who built the prototype using hydrogen and a three-horsepower steam engine. Power was considered incredible and enviable in the 19th century, as is easy to imagine. It was Giffard himself who maneuvered the dirigible, starting from the Paris racecourse where a large crowd had gathered.

It is also useful remembering the size of the aircraft: lenght was 44-meter-long, while diameter arrived to 10 meters, without forgetting the volume of 2500 cubic meters. The engine was single cylinder and ran on carbon coke and a propeller with three blades of 3.3 meters in diameter. The same engine had a weight of just over a quintal, almost 200 kilos if the boiler and fuel were added. Giffard was unable to go beyond 10 kilometers per hour, limiting himself to turning the airship with wide and very slow circles; however, he demonstrated that controlled flight was possible in the presence of optimal climatic conditions. It is undoubtedly a historic date that of September 24, 1852, also because the most famous first flight of the Wright brothers came only half a century later.

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AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency