Transatlantic Airships: An Illustrated History

by John Christopher


“While the airship will never be the solution to all our transport needs, it is being viewed very seriously as the ideal vehicle to perform a number of important tasks, and for the first time in decades it seems that lighter-than-air transport may have a serious future.”


When, do you think, were these words uttered? At the time airships took up regular scheduled service in the 1920s, filling the void that even powered multi-engine airplanes (talk about range anxiety!) could not fill?

Nope, they’re the closing words of this book, published some 90 years later.

As a professional balloonist, Christopher has a finely honed understanding of the aerodynamics of lighter-than-air apparatus, and as a director of an advocacy group that wants to see airships in regular scheduled service in the 21st century he very much has a horse in this race. And, just maybe, it is no coincidence that the date of publication of this book fell into a period when the newest Zeppelin NT was busy traveling the world giving tourist rides in order to generate visibility for the airship cause.

There is absolutely no shortage of books on this subject, so what does this one have that others don’t? To the author’s list of competencies should be added the fact that he is the former editor of the Aerostat, the journal of the British Balloon & Airship Club and Airship, the journal of the Airship Association. It is safe to say he has a full grasp of the subject matter

Slender and small, the book is, on the one hand, not really able to go into great detail but it is beautifully designed and printed. In that regard, it has just the right flavor to whet the appetite of a new audience. But despite being brief, the book is not at all superficial, in fact it introduces a few historical points on the timeline that may well surprise even those readers who thought they knew the key talking points of airship development.

The book’s focus is on the Big Idea, not on technical concepts or construction and performance minutia (basic specs are woven into the narrative; there are some glitches in the conversion between US and metric units of measure for volumes). Both civilian and military airships are discussed, and the most advanced, such as the Hindenburg and the two Graf Zeppelins get special attention.

The book is very well illustrated (but: small book = small illustrations) with text and photos circling around one main theme: “I believe, one of the fundamental reasons why so many people are smitten with airships in the first place is because they are both improbably and fantastic at the same time.”

Appended are a Chronology and Bibliography; and there is an Index. The attention of US readers is drawn to the fact the dollar price ($55) is quite out of the step with the UK price (£19.95).


Copyright 2017 (

Transatlantic Airships: An Illustrated History
by John Christopher
Crowood Press, 2010   [In US: IPG]
192 pages, b/w & color illustrations, hardcover
List Price: $55 / £19.95
ISBN-13: 978-1847971616

RSS Feed - Comments

Leave a comment

(All comments are moderated: you will see it, but until it's approved no one else will.)