Zeppelin Luftschiff-technik has begun final assembly of its New Technology (NT) airship prototype - the first rigid airship the company has produced since the Second World War.

The 68m-long prototype, LZ N07, is scheduled for completion in July 1996, in time for an "official" first flight in early 1997. The airship will have a volume of 7,200 cubic metres, and is to carry two pilots and 12 passengers or equivalent cargo.

It is to have an aluminum/carbon fibre frame with a pressurised, helium-filled hull divided into discrete cells.

It will be powered, by three swiveling 200hp Lycoming piston engines and a single lateral thrust fan at the tail.

The company claims the airship will offer improved safety, manoeuvring - including zero-speed manoeuvring - lower operating costs and higher speeds than today's blimps.

Source: Flight International