Saturday, September 19, 2009

UFO FYI: Airship Tales

Obligatory Spinning Earth Graphic


(UFO Casebook)
(UFOs At Close Sight)
(How Stuff Worrks)

The Mystery Airships were a class of unidentified flying objects, the best-known series of which were reported in newspapers in western states of the U.S., starting in 1896 and continuing into 1897. The reported ships were usually said to be a type of dirigible, and were usually differentiated from gliders or hot air balloons. The best-known wave of airship tales was largely confined to North America, but according to Jerome Clark, similar reports were made worldwide, early as the 1880s, and late as the 1990s.

UFOs in the 19th Century

As day dawned June 1, 1853, students at Burritt College in Tennessee noticed two luminous, unusual objects just to the north of the rising sun. One looked like a "small new moon," the other a "large star." The first one slowly grew smaller until it was no longer visible, but the second grew larger and assumed a globular shape. (Probably the objects were moving in a direct line to and from the witnesses or remaining stationary but altering their luminosity.) Professor A. C. Carnes, who interviewed the students and reported their sighting to Scientific American, wrote, "The first then became visible again, and increased rapidly in size, while the other diminished, and the two spots kept changing thus for about half an hour. There was considerable wind at the time, and light fleecy clouds passed by, showing the lights to be confined to one place."

Carnes speculated that "electricity" might be responsible for the phenomena. Scientific American believed this was "certainly" not the case; "possibly," the cause was "distant clouds of moisture." As explanations go, this was no more compelling than electricity. It would not be the last time a report and an explanation would make a poor match.

Unspectacular though it was, the event was certainly a UFO sighting, the type of sighting that could easily occur today. It represented a new phenomenon astronomers and lay observers were starting to notice with greater frequency in the Earth's atmosphere. And some of these sights were startling indeed.

On July 13, 1860, a pale blue light engulfed the city of Wilmington, Delaware. Residents looked up into the evening sky to see its source: a 200-foot-long something streaking along on a level course 100 feet above. Trailing behind it at 100-foot intervals cruised three "very red and glowing balls." A fourth abruptly joined the other three after shooting out from the rear of the main object, which was "giving off sparkles after the manner of a rocket." The lead object turned toward the southeast, passed over the Delaware River, and then headed straight east until lost from view. The incident -- reported in the Wilmington Tribune, July 30, 1860 -- lasted one minute.

During the 1850s and 1860s in Nebraska, settlers viewed some rather unnerving phenomena. Were they luminous "serpents"? Apparently not, but instead elongated mechanical structures. A Nebraska folk ballad reported one such unusual sighting:

Twas on a dark night in '66
When we was layin' steel
We seen a flyin' engine
Without no wing or wheel
It came a-roarin' in the sky
With lights along the side
And scales like a serpent's hide.

Something virtually identical was reported in a Chilean newspaper in April 1868 (and reprinted in Zoologist, July 1868). "On its body, elongated like a serpent," one of the alleged witnesses declared, "we could only see brilliant scales, which clashed together with a metallic sound as the strange animal turned its body in flight."

Lexicographer and linguist J.A.H. Murray was walking across the Oxford University campus on the evening of August 31, 1895, when he saw a:

brilliant luminous body which suddenly emerged over the tops of the trees before me on the left and moved east-ward across the sky above and in front of me. Its appearance was, at first glance, such as to suggest a brilliant meteor, considerably larger than Venus at her greatest brilliancy, but the slowness of the motion . . . made one doubt whether it was not some artificial firework. ... I watched for a second or two till [sic] it neared its culminating point and was about to be hidden from me by the lofty College building, on which I sprang over the corner . . . and was enabled to see it through the space between the old and new buildings of the College, as it continued its course toward the eastern horizon. . . . [I]t became rapidly dimmer . . . and finally disappeared behind a tree. . . . The fact that it so perceptibly grew fainter as it receded seems to imply that it had not a very great elevation. . . . [I]ts course was slower than [that of] any meteor I have ever seen.

Some 20 minutes later, two other observers saw the same or a similar phenomenon, which they viewed as it traversed a "quarter of the heavens" during a five-minute period.

But in 1896 events turned up a notch: The world experienced its first great explosion of sightings of unidentified flying objects. The beginning of the UFO era can be dated from this year. Although sightings of UFOs had occurred in earlier decades, they were sporadic and apparently rare. Also, these earlier sightings did not come in the huge concentrations ("waves" in the lingo of ufologists, "flaps" to the U.S. Air Force) that characterize much of the UFO phenomenon between the 1890s and the 1990s.

1884, Nebraska
By John Wenz

Very few people have heard of Max, Neb. A cursory look at the Google Map of the town shows just how small it is - under 20 blocks, a blip in southwest Nebraska. It's just eight miles from the seat of Dundy County: Benkelman, population 914. But Max, the blip it may be, is the closest town to an incident in that occurred 1884. The Nebraska Nugget reported, "About 35 miles northwest of Benkelman, Dundy County, on the 6th of June (1884) a very startling phenomenon occurred. It seems that John W. Ellis and three of his herdsmen and a number of other cowboys were out engaged in a roundup. They were startled by a terrific whirring noise over their heads, and turning their eyes saw a blazing body falling like a shot to Earth. It struck beyond them, being hidden from view by a bank."

One of the herdsmen, Alf Williamson, was burned as he approached the craft, which had created a split in the ground as it dragged to a stop. He was taken back to Ellis' home and treated for his burns. E.W. Rawlins, the brand inspector for the district, came to inspect it. The Nebraska State Journal reported on the event in 1887, saying, "One piece that looked like the blade of a propeller screw, of a metal of an appearance like brass, about 16 inches wide, three inches thick and three-and-a-half feet long, was picked up by a spade. It would not weigh more than five pounds, but appeared as strong and compact as any known metal. A fragment of a wheel with a milled rim, apparently having had a diameter of seven or eight feet, was also picked up. It seemed to be of the same material and had the same remarkable lightness." The lack of physical evidence means there's nothing much left today, and John Buder, a field researcher with the Mutual UFO Network of Nebraska, said that the people of Dundy County shy away from talking about the event. Most of his investigation into it has been research. He first stumbled across the story in a tourist's guide to Nebraska. From there, he's found it in multiple books on the subject.

"There has been a lot of studies made on UFO crashes," Buder said. "The people who I would claim know the most have not identified it as a hoax." It was the second UFO crash Buder knows of, and the first to be recorded in newspapers of the time. But once the story came out, it started a worldwide wave of similar stories - some more reputable than others. One such case is the 1897 crash near Aurora, Tex., where four alien bodies are supposedly buried in a graveyard. Eyder Peralta, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle, investigated that crash and turned up nothing. But the Nebraska crash is the first reported. It was only after the incident near Max that it became a sort of mythology. "That means that all these other hoax crashes that started seem to have gotten their start at Max, Neb.," Buder said. It's a piece of Nebraska history only occasionally touched on, Roswell before there was a Roswell to speak of. "I'd say right now there's only a few dozen people in Nebraska who even know about it," Buder said. But how does a craft just disappear, just dissolve in a crash? What about the "cogs" that the craft threw off as it approached the ground? Did those, too, simply disappear?

It's a legend taken more seriously than most of the era in ufology circles, which is not to say there aren't skeptics. Alan Boye even wrote in his recent book, "The Complete Roadside Guide to Nebraska," that "there are, of course, many people who do not believe the story, and others who claim it is yet another UFO story neglected and laughed at by skeptics."

But skeptical or not, Buder asserts that it was the beginning of the wave of stories, ground zero for what would turn into airship sightings as time went on. He sees the building of the railroad coinciding with the sightings of the era. In fact, the crafts were often described as "railroad engines without wheels" at the time. "It's ironic that this same story, this being the first, was repeated many more times worldwide at later dates," Buder said. And as for the remnants, Buder thinks there might be some things tucked away in the Republican River valley. "I wouldn't doubt that out there in one of those tool sheds or barns out there, there's a piece of metal that no one knows where it came from," he said.

Source & References: The Daily Nebraskan - Lincoln, Nebraska, USA


Letter To the Editor of the Scientific American:

The following brief account of a recent strange meteorological occurrence may be of interest to your readers as an addition to the list of electrical eccentricities:

During the night of the 24th of October last, which was rainy and tempestuous, a family of nine persons, sleeping in a hut a few leagues from Maracaibo, were awakened by a loud humming noise and a vivid, dazzling light, which brilliantly illuminated the interior of the house. The occupants completely terror stricken, and believing, as they relate, that the end of the world had come, threw themselves on their knees and commenced to pray, but their devotions were almost immediately interrupted by violent vomitings, and extensive swellings commenced to appear in the upper part of their bodies, this being particularly noticeable about the face and lips.

It is to be noted that the brilliant lights was not accompanied by a sensation of heat, although there was a smoky appearance and a peculiar smell. The next morning, the swellings had subsided, leaving upon the face and body large black blotches. No special pain was felt until the ninth day, when the skin peeled off, and these blotches were transformed into virulent raw sores. The hair of the head fell off upon the side which happened to be underneath when the phenomenon occurred, the same side of the body being, in all nine cases, the more seriously injured.

The remarkable part of the occurrence is that the house was uninjured, all doors and windows being closed at the time.

No trace of lightning could afterward by observed in any part of the building, and all the sufferers unite in saying that there was no detonation, but only the loud humming already mentioned. Another curious attendant circumstance is that the trees around the house showed no signs of injury until the ninth day, when they suddenly withered, almost simultaneously with the development of the sores upon the bodies of the occupants of the house. This is perhaps a mere coincidence, but it is remarkable that the same susceptibility to electrical effects, with the same lapse of time, should be observed in both animal and vegetable organisms.

I have visited the sufferers, who are now in one of the hospitals of this city; and although their appearance is truly horrible, yet it is hoped that in no case will the injuries prove fatal.

Warner Cowgill.
U. S. Consulate,
Maracaibo, Venezuela
November 17, 1886

There were a number of mystery airship reports from the U.S. east coast in 1887.

Airships in America

Between the fall of 1896 and the spring of 1897 people began sighting "airships," first in California and then across most of the rest of the United States. Most people (though not all) thought the airships were machines built by secret inventors who would soon dazzle the world with a public announcement of a break-through in aviation technology leading to a heavier-than-air flying machine. More than a few hoaxers and sensation-seeking journalists were all too happy to play on this popular expectation. Newspaper stories quoted "witnesses" who claimed to have seen the airships land and to have communicated with the pilots. The pilots themselves were quoted word for word boasting of their aeronautical exploits and, in some instances, of their intention to drop "several tons of dynamite" on Spanish fortresses in Cuba. Any reader with access to more than one newspaper account could have seen that the stories conflicted wildly and were inherently unbelievable. We now know that no such ships existed in human technology, and no standard history of aviation ever mentions these tall tales.

But other UFO sightings appear to have been quite real. Most descriptions were of a cylindrical object with a headlight, lights along the side, and a brilliant searchlight that swept the ground. Sometimes the objects were said to have huge wings. An "airship" was observed over Oakland, California, just after 8 P.M. on November 26. One witness said the object resembled "a great black cigar. . . . The body was at least 100 feet long and attached to it was a triangular tail, one apex being attached to the main body. The surface of the airship looked as if it were made of aluminum, which exposure to wind and weather had turned dark. . . . The airship went at tremendous speed" (Oakland Tribune, December 1, 1896). Witnesses in California numbered in the thousands, partly due to the objects' appearances -- sometimes in broad daylight -- over such major cities as Sacramento and San Francisco.

By February 1897 meandering nocturnal lights were also sighted in rural Nebraska. One of these lights swooped low over a group of worshippers leaving a prayer meeting: It turned out to be a cone-shaped structure with a head-light, three smaller lights along each side, and two wings. Such reports became the subject of newspaper articles around the state, leading the Kearney Hub on February 18 to remark that the "now famous California airship inventor is in our vicinity." In short order sightings were logged in Kansas, and by April across a broad band of middle America -- from the Dakotas and Texas in the west to Ohio and Tennessee in the east-the skies were full of UFOs.

The UFO wave of 1896 and 1897 sparked great interest as well as many hoaxes. A Chicago newspaper noted an April 11 report (above illustration), based on what proved to be a faked photograph.

­But the skies were also full of planets, stars, lighted balloons, and kites, which impressionable observers mistook for airships. Newspapers were full of outrageous yarns: A Martian perished in an airship crash in Texas. "Hideous" creatures lassoed a calf and flew off over Kansas with it. A "bellowing" giant broke the hip of a farmer who got too close to his airship after it landed in Michigan. These stories reflect a powerful undercurrent of speculation about extraterrestrial visitors.

1896-1897 wave

The best-known of the Mystery Airship waves began in California in 1896. Afterwards, reports and accounts of similar airships came from others areas, generally moving east. Some accounts during this wave of airship reports claim that occupants were visible on some airships, and encounters with the pilots were reported as well. These occupants were said to be human, though their behaviour, mannerisms and clothing were sometimes reported to be unusual. One witness from Arkansas-- allegedly a former state senator Harris -- was supposedly told by an airship pilot (during the tensions leading up the Spanish American War) that the craft was bound for Cuba, to use its "Hotchkiss gun" to "kill Spaniards". (Jacobs, 10) In one account from Texas, three men reported an encounter with an airship and with "five peculiarly dressed men" who reported that they were descendant from the lost tribes of Israel; they had learned English from the 1553 north pole expedition led by Hugh Willoughby.

In 1896, at the Portsmouth, New Hampshire shipyard (home of the Thresher), 2 security guards were guarding the bridge from the mainland to the dock where a navy ship was tied to a floating dock. At about 9:00 PM, an object appeared flying over the ship and over the bridge. Both men shot at it and heard the "ping" of the bullets hitting the craft. The object brightened up and took off faster then when it flew over. Remember 1896... man did not have working aircraft then.

The Lake Elmo UFO Encounter
by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Late on the evening of April 13, 1897, as they were passing through Lake Elmo, Minnesota, on their way to Hudson, Wisconsin, Frederick Chamberlain and O. L. Jones spotted a shadowy figure in a clearing two blocks away. The figure carried a lantern and seemed to be looking for something. Thinking there might be some emergency, Chamberlain and Jones turned toward the clearing, but the figure and lantern disappeared into the trees. Moments later they heard the crackling of twigs and branches, followed by a "rushing noise . . . like the wind blowing around the eaves of a house," Chamberlain told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (April 15). "A second later and we distinguished a long, high object of a gray white color."

Although the two men could not get a clear view of it in the darkness, the object, which had two rows of red, green, and white lights on each side, looked like "most of the top of a 'prairie schooner,'" Chamberlain said. It rose at a sharp angle, then headed south just above the treetops.

At the clearing, the two witnesses found, impressed in the wet ground, 14 two-foot-long prints, six inches wide, and arranged in an oblong pattern seven on a side. Apparently, these were traces left by the craft.Around that same time Adam Thielen, a farmer in the Lake Elmo area, heard a buzzing sound above him. When he looked up, he saw a dark object with red and green lights sailing overhead.

illustration of lake elmo ufo


The Aurora, Texas Crash

As the story goes, it was on April 17, 1897, that a slow moving space ship crashed into a windmill, bursting into pieces. As the debris was searched through, supposedly the body of a small alien was discovered.

Originally the alien pilot was dubbed the "Martian pilot." Some of the debris also revealed material sketched with a type of hieroglyphic. The town folk gave the poor little creature a proper burial in the local cemetery.

This incident, whether true or not, has had just enough publicity to stay afloat for over 100 years. It was made into a movie, "The Aurora Encounter" in 1986, starring Jack Elam.

The news of the crash spread quickly, even for that time period. A newspaper article of the event still exists, written by S. E. Haydon, reporter for the Dallas Morning News. The original article:

About 6 o'clock this morning the early risers of Aurora were astonished at the sudden appearance of the airship which has been sailing around the country. It was traveling due north and much nearer the earth than before.

Evidently some of the machinery was out of order, for it was making a speed of only ten or twelve miles an hour, and gradually settling toward the earth. It sailed over the public square and when it reached the north part of town it collided with the tower of Judge Proctor's windmill and went into pieces with a terrific explosion, scattering debris over several acres of ground, wrecking the windmill and water tank and destroying the judge's flower garden.

The pilot of the ship is supposed to have been the only one aboard and, while his remains were badly disfigured, enough of the original has been picked up to show that he was not an inhabitant of this world.

Aurora Map

The story never gained a lot of exposure at the time, but held on until it was commented on by UPI on May 24, 1973:

"Aurora, Tex. -- (UPI) -- A grave in a small north Texas cemetery contains the body of an 1897 astronaut who was 'not an inhabitant of this world,' according to the International UFO Bureau. The group, which investigates unidentified flying objects, has already initiated legal proceedings to exhume the body and will go to court if necessary to open the grave, director Hayden Hewes said Wednesday."

"After checking the grave with metal detectors and gathering facts for three months, we are certain as we can be at this point [that] he was the pilot of a UFO which reportedly exploded atop a well on Judge J.S. Proctor's place, April 19, 1897," Hewes said." "He was not an inhabitant of this world."

The legend was back in the news! Only a couple of days later, UPI followed up the first report with another from Aurora. They had located a living witness to the event. A ninety-one-year-old who had been a girl of fifteen in Aurora at the time of the reported incident was quoted. "I had all but forgotten the incident until it appeared in the newspapers recently." She said her parents had actually been to the crash sight, but had not allowed her to accompany them for fear of what might be in the debris. She recalled that the remains of the pilot, "a small man," had been buried in the Aurora cemetery, validating the other legends.

For reasons unknown, the Aurora Cemetery Association fought the attempts to exhume the alleged alien body. They were successful, and the dead alien's remains stayed a mystery. The town of Aurora still shows traces of Military intervention today, and the question must be asked, "Why would the U. S. Military be in the town of Aurora?" Anyone familiar with the Roswell crash of 1947 will remember that debris from Mac Brazel's field was flown to Ft. Worth, which is only a short hop's distance from Aurora. Is this why the Military was in Aurora? Could the Government have the alien body? Today Aurora, like other cities, is modernized, and yet a few hints of the past still remain. Although the headstone of the alien was stolen, there remain pictures of it today. A copy of this photo now adorns the grave site. There has been, at times, a lobby to exhume the remains of the little pilot and give it a proper burial, with a new headstone. So far, this has not happened. Should the little grave be dug up, or should we just leave it and the legend of the Aurora UFO alone? (BJ Booth)


Houston Post,
April 26

Josserand: Considerable excitement prevails at this writing in this usually quiet village of Josserand, caused by a visit of the noted airship, which has been at so many points of late.

Mr. Frank Nichols, a prominent farmer living about two miles east of here, and a man of unquestioned veracity, was awakened night before last near the hour of twelve by a whirring noise similar to that made by machinery.
Upon looking out he was startled upon beholding brilliant lights streaming from a ponderous vessel of strange proportions, which rested upon the ground in his cornfield. Having read the despatches, published in the Post of the noted aerial navigators, the truth at once flashed over him that he was one of the fortunate ones and with all the bravery of Priam at the siege of Troy [sic] Mr. Nichols started out to investigate. Before reaching the strange midnight visitor he was accosted by two men with buckets who asked permission to draw water from his well. Thinking he might be entertaining heavenly visitors instead of earthly mortals, permission was readily granted. Mr. Nichols was kindly invited to accompany them to the ship.

He conversed freely with the crew, composed of six or eight individuals about the ship. The machinery was so complicated that in his short interview he could gain no knowledge of its workings. However, one of the crew told him the problem of aerial navigation had been solved.
The ship or car is built of a newly discovered material that has the property of self-sustenance in the air, and the motive power is highly condensed electricity. He was informed that five of these ships were built at a small town in Iowa. Soon the invention will be given to the public. An immense stock company is now being formed and within the next year the machines will be in general use.

Mr. Nichols lives at Josserand, Trinity County, Texas, and will convince any incredulous one by showing the place where the ship rested.

1897, Sworn statement from Alexander Hamilton, at his farm in LeRoy Kansas:

"Last night about 10:30 we were awakened by a noise among the cattle. I arose, thinking that perhaps my bulldog was performing his pranks, but upon going to the door saw to my utter astionishment that an airship was slowly descending upon my cow lot, about 40 rods from the house"

Hamilton also described it as a cigar shaped portion, about 300 feet long with a carriage underneath. The carriage was of some transparent material. It was brightly lighted within. It contained six on the strangest beings he had ever seen.

Later research

Jerome Clark writes that "One curious feature of the post-1887 airship waves was the failure of each to stick in historical memory. Although 1909, for example, brought a flood of sightings worldwide and attendant discussion and speculation, contemporary accounts do not allude to the hugely publicized events of little more than a decade earlier." (Clark 2000, 123) Clark writes that attempts to "uncover the truth about the late-nineteenth-century airship scare comes up against some unhappy realities: newspaper coverage was unreliable; no independent investigators ('airshipologists') spoke directly with alleged witnesses or attempted to verify or debunk their testimony; and, with a single unsatisfactory exception, no eyewitness was ever interviewed even in the 1950’s, when some were presumably still living."(Clark 1998, 37) The "single unsatisfactory example" Clark cites is a former San Francisco Chronicle employee interviewed via telephone by Edward J. Ruppelt in 1952.

Ruppelt wrote that the man "had been a copy boy ... and remembered the incident, but time had cancelled out the details. He did tell me that he, the editor of the paper, and the news staff had seen 'the ship', as he referred to the UFO. His story, even though it was fifty-six years old, smacked of others I’d heard when he said that no one at the newspaper ever told anyone what they had seen; they didn’t want people to think they were 'crazy.'"

Jacobs notes that "Most arguments against the airship idea came from individuals who assumed that the witnesses did not see what they claimed to see. This is the crucial link between the 1896-97 phenomenon and the modern unidentified flying object phenomenon beginning in 1947. It also was central to the debate over whether unidentified flying objects constituted a unique phenomenon." (Jacobs, 33-34)

Early citations of the extraterrestrial hypothesis, all from 1897, include the Washington Times, which speculated that the airships were "a reconnoitering party from Mars"; and the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, which suggested of the airships, "these may be visitors from Mars, fearful, at the last, of invading the planet they have been seeking." (Jacobs, 29) In 1909, a letter printed in the Otago Daily Times (New Zealand) suggested that the mystery airship sightings then being reported in that country were due to Martian "atomic-powered spaceships." (Clark 2000, 123)

Cylindrical UFOs with searchlights would continue to be seen periodically for decades to come. A worldwide wave of UFO sightings took place in 1909 in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, and the eastern United States. As late as 1957 an "airship" was seen over McMinnville, Oregon.

Witnesses reported other kinds of UFOs, too. One such report came from U.S. Navy Lieutenant Frank H. Schofield, who served as the Pacific Fleet's commander-in-chief in the 1930s. Standing on the deck of the USS Supply on February 28, 1904, Schofield and two other sailors watched "three remarkable meteors," bright red in color, as they flew beneath the clouds toward their ship. The objects then "appeared to soar, passing above the broken clouds . . . moving directly away from the Earth. The largest had an apparent area of about six suns. It was egg-shaped, the larger end forward. The second was about twice the size of the sun, and the third, about the size of the sun. . . . The lights were in sight for over two minutes." (Monthly Weather Review, March 1904)


On 8 August 1709, Bartholomeu Lourenço de Gusmão, a Portuguese Jesuit priest, demonstrated the raising of some instrument, of uncertain mechanism but likely using hot air, in Lisbon. Witnesses named it the Passarola.

The father of the dirigible was Lieutenant Jean Baptiste Marie Meusnier (1754-93). On the 3rd December 1783 he presented an historic paper to the French Academy ‘Memoire sur l’equilbre des Machines Aerostatique’. The 16 water colour drawings published the following year depict a 260 ft long envelope with internal ballonnets that could be used for regulating lift & this was attached to a long carriage that could be used as a boat if the vehicle was forced to land in water. The airship was designed to be propelled in air by three airscrew propellers & steered with a sail like aft rudder.

In 1784, Jean-Pierre Blanchard fitted a hand-powered propeller to a balloon, the first recorded means of propulsion carried aloft. In 1785, he crossed the English Channel with a balloon equipped with flapping wings for propulsion, and a bird-like tail for steerage.

The first aviation pioneer of Australia was Dr William Bland, a naval surgeon who was sentenced to seven years transportation in a Calcutta court after a duel in Bombay in 1813. In March 1851 Bland sent designs for his 'Atmotic Airship' to the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London where a model was displayed, this was the year before Henri Giffard flew the first steam powered dirigible. His idea was to supply power to an elongated balloon with a steam engine installed in a car, Since the lift of the balloon was estimated at 5 tons & the car with the fuel weighed 3.5 tons, the payload was estimated at 1.5 tons. Bland believed that with two airscrews the machine could be driven at 50 miles per hour and could fly from Sydney to London in less than a week.

The first person to make an engine-powered flight was Henri Giffard, who, in 1852, flew in a steam-powered airship. Airships would develop considerably over the next two decades: In 1863, Dr. Solomon Andrews devised the first fully steerable airship, the Aereon, although it had no motor.

In 1888–97, Dr. Frederich Wölfert built three airships powered by Daimler Motor Company-built petrol engines, the last of which caught fire in flight and killed both occupants in 1897. The 1888 version used a one cylinder 2 HP Daimler engine and flew 10 km from Canstatt to Kornwestheim. In 1896, a rigid airship created by Croatian engineer David Schwarz made its first flight at Tempelhof International Airport in Berlin.

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