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History of Hot Air Airships

Please note: This is a provisional outline and list of ideas for this section. I hope to complete the text as time and resources allow.

The hot air airship was invented by Don Cameron (UK) of Cameron Balloons fame in the early seventies. After three years of development, the first prototype, G-xxxx, was presented to the public at the Icicle Meet in January 1973. It had a single vertical fin of roundish shape and the single rudder was inflated with ram air from the propane fueled VW engine. A second vertical fin was added quickly. Later, Cameron switched to tail surfaces in a Y-cofiguration and finally to the now prevalent cruciform arrangement.

Around the same time, engineers at Thunder Balloons (later to unite with Colt Balloons to form Thunder & Colt) were experimenting with scale models of pressurized thermal airships. A first prototype, sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland, made its maiden flight in 1970something.

Cooperating with a Swedish balloon company, Cameron also flew its first pressurized hot airship.

Also in 1973, Brian Boland (USA) flew his 140,000 cu. ft. Albatross.

Along the years, Raven Industries in Sioux Falls (South Dakota, USA) and the World Balloon Corporation in Albuquerque (New Mexico, USA) built their own pressurized thermal airships. But their designs never entered certified production.

In 1980? Cameron went on to pressurize its airship line as well. Today, all commercially available hot air airships are of the pressurized type.

In the 1980s, the German GEFA-FLUG conducted extensive research into hot air balloon and airship technologies, under the direction of its founder Karl-Ludwig Busemeyer. In cooperation with Thunder & Colt, from which it borrowed the gondola design, GEFA-FLUG developed its own thermal airship design. Featuring a finer, more aerodynamic shape and higher performance specifications, the prototype AS 80 GD flew in 1985?.

In 1990? Thunder & Colt built a very large hot air airship of 261,000 cu. ft. for Frenchman Dany Cleyet-Marel, the AS-261. The airship was later fitted with an even larger replacement envelope by Lindstrand Balloons and has since then been know as the AS-300.

Late entrant in the market is Lindstrand Balloons (founded in 1994?) with its HS-110, a very sophisticated design intended mainly for commercial advertising operations.

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