Airships for the 21st Century

The Sailing Airship

Illustration: Emily Cooper

In 1940 the noted American airship engineer Charles P. Burgess speculated that it might be possible to sail an airship at sea. He proposed lowering from an airship by cables a hydrodynamic body that would serve as an underwater wing, translating the force of the wind blowing on the airship into controllable motion through the water. The airship's great surface area, he suggested, would capture enough wind to allow it to be used for dedicated transoceanic airships. To date, nobody has realized Burgess's vision, but it would surely represent the greenest of air-transportation systems.