From Academic Kids

Blimp is an informal term typically applied to non-rigid airships. These airships differ from rigid airships (e.g., Zeppelins) in that they have no rigid structure that holds the airbag in shape. Rather, blimps rely on a higher pressure of the gas (usually helium) inside the envelope. For a more complete description of this style of aircraft, please see airship.

The term "blimp" is reportedly onomatopoeic, the sound the airship makes when one taps the envelope (balloon) with a finger. Although there is some disagreement among historians, credit for coining the term is usually given to Lt. A.D. Conningham of the British Royal Navy in 1915.

There is an often repeated, but false, alternative explanation for the term. The erroneous story is that at some time in the early 20th century, the United States military had two classes for airships: Type A-rigid and Type B-limp, hence "blimp". In fact,

"there was no American 'A-class' of airships as such—all military aircraft, heavier or lighter-than-air were designated with 'A' until the appearance of B-class airships in May 1917. There was an American B airship—but there seems to be no record of any official designation of non-rigids as 'limp'. Further, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the first appearance of the word in print was in 1916, in England, a year before the first B-class airship." ("Etymology of 'Blimp'" by Dr. A. D. Topping, AAHS Journal, Winter 1963.)

The perpetuation of this erroneous explanation is an example of fake etymology.

Blimps maintain their form by internal overpressure. Typically, the only solid parts are the passenger car (gondola) and the tail fins.

A blimp that uses heated air instead of a light gas as lifting medium is sometimes called a hotship.


Missing image
One of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company's blimp fleet.

Blimps have been popularized by several companies, including Goodyear, Budweiser, and Fujifilm, which use them for advertising, and as platforms to provide aerial shots of sporting events.

During World War I and World War II blimps assisted the United States military in aerial reconnaissance along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.

Missing image
A view of six helium-filled blimps being stored in one of the two massive hangars at the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, California. during World War II.

The USGS uses unmanned blimps to carry equipment to places where conventional aircraft cannot go, such as above an erupting volcano. Blimps are ideal as they can hover, and are less likely to be damaged by volcanic ash than a helicopter. They are also cheaper.

The Mineseeker Project ([1] ( seeks to design a system to determine whether landmines are present in areas using ultra-wideband synthetic aperture radar units mounted on blimps.

For a discussion of current research and development on other types of blimps, including a so-called "space blimp", see airship.

See also

External links

Missing image
In the absence of permanent tie-downs, and to facilitate the movement of blimps on the ground, mobile (truck-mounted) mooring masts are sometimes employed.

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