Airship: Design, Development, and Disaster. By John Swinfield. Annapolis Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2012. Photographs. Glossary. Bibliography. Notes. Index. Pp. 336. $45.95 ISBN 978-1-59114034-4
If you want to understand some of the complex history of airships, dirigibles, and blimps, read this book. Swinfield has included much detailed research into the technology, development, marketing, politics, nationalism, and key people involved in airship history. There are some good technical explanations throughout the book. This is not an engineering design book on airships; however, newly discovered first-hand material adds interesting history and depth to the stories of this beginning of global flight.
Swinfield is a well-known BBC/TV journalist who produced a film for British ITV over thirty-five years ago about Europa, a new airship then being built in Cardington, England. He never forgot his flight in Europa, and the "siren call" etched in his mind the special allure of flying, or "sailing," in an airship. Even with this emotional bias, Swinfield has tried to convey a balanced history (positive and negative) of airship development. He defines the three types of airships: the largest, rigid airships (internal skeleton); the smallest, blimps (no internal skeleton); and the semi-rigid with a rigid bottom keel. There are challenges to the reader, with some chapters' timelines and background overlapping one another.
Development history of the airship is very interesting. "Though pioneering work had been conducted in France, it was in Germany that the airship found its spiritual home "The German military and civilian uses created the technology base for all countries to follow and build upon. The first half of the book is very heavy on British airship development, including military and civilian-passenger business. Swinfield well describes the sometimes excessive governmental...