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CargoLifter spokesman
"It's a sort of flying crane"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 13:56 GMT 14:56 UK
Germans reinvent Zeppelin
Airship
Ambitious plans for new airship
By Europe business correspondent Patrick Bartlett

In one of the most unusual share offerings ever seen, a German company that plans to make giant airships is launching on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

The company, CargoLifter AG, based on a former Soviet airfield near Berlin, intends to reinvent the Zeppelin as a modern form of freight transport.

The airship will be so big, say its designers, that it will be able to lift the equivalent of 10 fully-loaded trucks.

The stock market launch comes 63 years after the Hindenburg, one of the original passenger-carrying Zeppelins, burst into flames over America.

Trans-Atlantic flight

Not since the Hindenburg disaster in 1937 have airships been seriously considered as a viable form of commercial transport.

The Cargolifter, as this latest version will be known, was the idea of a German industry commission set up to find new ways of carrying huge unwieldy loads around the world.

The airship will be twice the volume of the original Zeppelin and use inert helium gas instead of flammable hydrogen.

Its backers say it will have a range of 10,000 km - easily able to cross the Atlantic.

But the key to its success will be technology enabling the airship to lift and lower cargoes without touching down.

Large machinery such as turbine generators could be delivered to the remotest locations with minimal disruption.

Prototypes

Alongside industrial backers such as Siemens, 16,000 mostly private shareholders have already invested in the project, even though it will be at least two years before the first test flight.

The $110m raised in Tuesday's flotation will fund the prototypes - to be built in a huge hanger which is currently nearing completion.

This must be one of the riskiest projects ever to capture the imagination of German investors, but with 150 top engineers from 16 countries working on it, there is no doubting the seriousness of the venture.

Most strikingly, it has provided evidence of the new entrepreneurial culture in a country not famed for risk-taking investment.

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