I am writing a steampunk novel set in a human world without computer chips, heavier than air aircraft, or recyclable plastic.

How large could a passenger airship be built using 1920s era technology? This airship is intended for the very wealthy, so there are few limitations.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Airships were always intended for the very wealthy. A trans-Atlantic flight on the Hindenburg cost 450 USD in 1937, which would be more than 8000 USD nowadays. One way. Double for a return trip. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 12, 2021 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ Both lighter than air and heavier than air flight technologies were being developed in tandem during the period in question. If you extrapolate out along a timeline where heavier than air flight never developed (past the first few rudimentary attempts) you still have the option of aeronautical engineers taking lighter than air engineering to its full potential e.g. lifting body shapes, better engines, stronger air frames etc. That kind of thing. Regardless one change I would definitely make. Give your alternate world larger/more widely distributed supplies of helium. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Dec 13, 2021 at 3:14

2 Answers 2


You can refer to the notorious Zeppelin Hindenburg

General characteristics

  • Crew: 40 to 61
  • Capacity: 50–70[58] passengers
  • Length: 245 m (803 ft 10 in)
  • Diameter: 41.2 m (135 ft 1 in) -Volume: 200,000 m3 (7,062,000 cu ft)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Daimler-Benz DB 602 (LOF-6) V-16 diesel engines, 890 kW (1,200 hp) each


  • Maximum speed: 135 km/h (85 mph, 74 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 122 km/h (76 mph, 66 kn)

It was a very luxurious airship, common folks would travel third class on steamer ships.

The inside of the Hindenburg surpassed all other airships in luxury. Though most of the airship's interior consisted of gas cells, there were two decks (just aft of the control gondola) for the passengers and crew. These decks spanned the width (but not the length) of the Hindenburg.

  • Deck A (the top deck) offered a promenade and a lounge on each side of the airship which was nearly walled with windows (which opened), allowing passengers to watch the scenery throughout their trip. In each of these rooms, passengers could sit on chairs made of aluminum. The lounge even featured a baby grand piano that was made of aluminum and covered in yellow pigskin, weighing only 377 pounds.

  • Between the promenade and the lounge were the passenger cabins. Each cabin had two berths and a washbasin, similar in design to a sleeping room on a train. But in order to keep weight to a minimum, the passenger cabins were separated by only a single layer of foam covered by fabric. Toilets, urinals, and one shower could be found downstairs, on Deck B.

  • Deck B (the lower deck) also contained the kitchen and the crew's mess. Plus, Deck B offered the amazing amenity of a smoking room. Considering that hydrogen gas was extremely flammable, the smoking room was a novelty in air travel. Connected to the rest of the ship through an airlock door, the room was specially insulated to keep hydrogen gasses from leaking into the room. Passengers were able to lounge in the smoking room day or night and freely smoke (lighting from the only lighter allowed on the craft, which was built into the room).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But is that the upper limit? Could an airship have been built with even greater dimensions? $\endgroup$
    – Galactic
    Dec 12, 2021 at 8:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Galactic - you could certainly build larger, but would then be running up against diminishing returns. There were already very few airfields that could accommodate an airship the size of the Hindenberg, and fewer hangars. (And, as indicated by the specifications on the furniture, even if you make it bigger, "opulence" is questionable due to severe weight restrictions.) $\endgroup$
    – jdunlop
    Dec 12, 2021 at 9:00

Three Hindenburgs.

triple blimp


You can build one? You can build 3! Strap them together and off you go.

In real life, proposed double hulled airships use the connecting struts as aerodynamic elements.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .