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The inventor of the dirigible balloon was the German Count Ferdinand Adolf Heirinch von Zeppelin (1839 -1917).


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Last update: 09/06/2022

By: Semira Adler Vainsencher - Researcher at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - Master in Psychology

The zeppelins were airships that resembled huge cigars and their travels were actual attractions, which were eagerly expected by the population. At last, human beings had conquered one of their ancient and greatest dreams: the power to fly. The use of helium gas (a non-flammable gas) allowed the rise of the era of these aircrafts.


The inventor of the airship balloon was the German Count Ferdinand Adolf Heirinch von Zeppelin (1839–1917). On July 2, 1900, with an aircraft driven by two small engines, the Count managed to fly over the Constanza lake, at the border between Germany and Switzerland.


Because of this extraordinary feat in the history of aviation, airships are still called zeppelins, the same name as their inventor.


The success of the airships enabled the founding of the first cargo and passenger transport airline in Germany: Deutsche Luftschiffahrts Aktein Gesellchaft (DELAG).


In the beginning of the twentieth century, the Germans had launched the following airships, as the apex of their technological advances: the “Graf Zeppelin” (in 1928) and the “LZ 129 Hindenburg” (in 1936). With extremely comfortable interiors and capable of facing transoceanic crossings, they worked as true floating hotels.


Regarding the safety of these aircrafts, it must be remembered that on May 6, 1937, in Lakehurst, USA, there was a fatal accident with the “Hindenburg.”


Because it has a privileged geographical position in the Northeast of Brazil, the city of Recife was chosen to be the house of the first operational base for the “Zeppelin” and “Hindenburg” airships. For this, an Aerostation Park was built in Jiquiá, with a 16-meter-high docking tower. It was the first aeronautical station for airships in South America and had a similar function to that of the lighthouses.


On May 22, 1930, when one of these great flying fish arrived in Recife for the first time, it had such relevance that Estácio Coimbra, governor of Pernambuco at that time, deemed it a state holiday. And the airship ended up landing on Jiquiá’s Airship Field.


During the following years (1930–1937), the zeppelins kept crossing the air space of Germany and Brazil: They would leave Friedrichshafen and make a stopover in Recife. During this period, “Graf Zeppelin” made sixty-five trips, and the Hindenburg made two. And these aircrafts landed eight times in Jiquiá.


The zeppelins were so successful that Ascenso Ferreira once wrote a poem about them:


Graf Zeppelin
W Z! K D K A! U Z Q P!


· Hello, Zeppelin! Hello, Zeppelin! Hello, Zeppelin!
· Usted me puede dar nuevas del Zeppelin?
· Dove il Zeppelin?
· Where is the Zeppelin?
· It just passed by Fernando de Noronha.
· It went smoking!
· It arrived in Natal!
(Augusto Severo, wake up from your sleep, pecker!)
· Hello, Zeppelin! Hello, Zeppelin!
· Radio, radio, radio!


W Z — Q P Q P — G Q A A… = Jiquiá!
· They pointed!
· It’s like a whale moving in the sea.
· It’s like a ship flying in the air.
· God, that’s an inhuman invention!
· Oh, how pretty it is!
· Long live Mr. Zé Pelin!
· Hurray!
· Deutschland über alles!
· It has docked!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Missing: — “Hello, Mr. Ferramenta,

You go up or you break down!”


Augusto Severo was an aeronaut from Rio Grande do Norte, killed in the air in 1901 because of the explosion of the “Pax” balloon that was leading him. The airport of Natal has his name as tribute. And Ferramenta was a Portuguese captain who, in the year 1905, flew in another balloon.


During World War I (1914–1918), due to the London bombing, the zeppelin was used by the Germans as a weapon. In World War II, however, this aircraft was used in patrol and rescue operations.


With a telescopic tower as base and 19-meter-high, the Zeppelin Tower is currently in an area under military jurisdiction. In 1982, this former attraction was listed by Fundação do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico de Pernambuco — FUNDARPE. Today, it represents the only airship tower in the world.


A year before that, under the sponsorship of the Government of the State of Pernambuco, Empetur, Varig and the Frankfurt Airport Administration (Germany), the seven former zeppelin crew members visited that tower.


In 1997, Germany built the LZ N 07, the newest member of the Zeppelin family and a member of the fourth generation of high-tech airships. The aircraft was developed by Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH in Friedrichshafen and is expected to be used in scientific, advertising and tourist flights.



Recife, March 22, 2004.


sources consulted

FRANCA, Rubem. Monumentos do Recife. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1977.

PROJETO: Recife-Cidade do Zeppelin. Recife: Grupo Zeppelin, 1997. Mimeografado.

how to quote this text

VAINSENCHER, Semira Adler. Zeppelin. In: PESQUISA Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2004. Available from: Access on: Month. day, year. (Ex.: Aug. 6, 2009.)