Almerico da Schio, the Italian “Zeppelin”

With fifty years in advance on the plane, and son of aerostatic balloons that already rose in the sky at the end of the eighteenth century, the airship – in its short life – was another instrument with which man sought and obtained to get up in flight. Compared to the “balloons”, which could not be driven because you could only get them on and off, the airship was piloted. The French “Giffard I” of 1852 was the first example: twenty-six kilometers traveled at a speed of eight kilometers per hour! Since then the progress was rapid and when the Brazilian aeronaut Alberto Santos-Dumont applied an internal combustion engine, which was later improved, the flying machine reached seventy kilometers per hour. When it comes to airships, the collective imagination is automatically led to pronounce a name: Count Zeppelin. This German gentleman armed the balloon with a rigid structure, a metal skeleton that guaranteed strength. On July 3, 1900, the 124-meter “Zeppelin” flew over Lake Constance. This is probably the flight that gave impetus to the golden age of airships, which lasted for about forty years: May 6th 1937 is the date of their sunset, caused by the “Hindenburg” incident, the most large flying object never built, which at 19:25, not far from New York, caught fire while preparing to dock at the pylon after completing the Atlantic crossing. A disastrous explosion that caused the death of thirty-six people and that impressed the world. In the midst of these events, and part of this history of flight, there is also an Italian protagonist: he is the count Almerico da Schio, graduated in law with a passion for astronomy, mathematics, meteorology and aeronautics . He puts on the Associazione in partecipazione per la costruzione e l’eventuale esercizio della prima aeronave (this was the name of the company!)  in order to realize his enterprise. Queen Margherita also provided a financial contribution to the financing of the initiative. After several failures, finally at 5.40 am on June 17th 1905  “Italy” airship carried out the first test flight from the Caussa farm, in Schio, in Veneto. Thus Almerico da Schio described the event: “The airship was leaving in a south-south-west direction. Ascent of about 400 meters proved to be obedient to the pilot’s hand and described on the roofs of Schio numerous spirals in all directions … ». Later technological innovations were introduced which were patented. The aircraft was 37 meters long, a circumference of 25 and was pointed at both stern and bow. The spacecraft – 17 meters long – hung under the balloon, contained the engine, the pilot and three passengers. It underwent some modifications and made four more flights, until 1909, the year in which following its serious damage due to a violent landing its history ended.