dirigible

¿Qué es un dirigible?

El dirigible es un vehículo aéreo que flota en el aire debido a que su peso es inferior al peso del aire que desplaza. Se trata del mismo principio por el que flotan los barcos y los globos aerostáticos. Para lograr esto, el dirigible posee varios globos interiores llenos de un gas mucho más ligero que el aire (hidrógeno o helio). Además tiene hélices para su propulsión.

 

¿Cómo funciona un dirigible?

Como todos los «más ligeros que el aire», un dirigible  consta de una envoltura estanca llena de gas y que sostiene a una barquilla. Pero ésta está provista de órganos de propulsión (motores y hélices), de estabilización y de dirección (timones y estabilizadores verticales), que le proporciona una total dirigibilidad. El gas está contenido de unos compartimentos. Es un verdadero barco aéreo.

Para disminuir la resistencia al avance, la envoltura tiene forma de huso y se perfila al modo de un cigarro puro o de un pez. Los dirigibles pueden ser flexibles, rígidos o semirígidos. Los rígidos tiene su más claro ejemplo en los zeppelines, cuya solidez les permite alcanzar altas velocidades, tener envolturas de gran capacidad y llevar grandes cargas. Los enormes Graff Zeppelin (1938) tenían una capacidad de 200 000 metros cúbicos, un peso total de 22 toneladas y una longitud de 245 metros. Podían recorrer 16 500 kilómetros transportando 40 pasajeros. Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial, las marinas europeas utilizaban dirigibles para la observación y para la protección de los convoyes (detección visual de los campos de minas). Pero, tras numerosas catástrofes, hubo que suprimirlos. Hace algún tiempo se construyeron en Orly vastos hangares parabólicos destinados a albergar los dirigibles. Actualmente han desaparecido. Sin embargo, la marina norteamericana ha conservado sus dirigibles. Alguno de ellos sirven como estaciones de radar volantes.

 

La sustentación, ¿juega un papel en el vuelo de un dirigible?

Sí, debido a su forma, se puede conseguir cierto grado de sustentación, siempre y cuando los motores estén en marcha y el dirigible se esté moviendo. No obstante, la mayor parte del empuje vertical que lo sostiene se debe al gas interior.

¿Por qué fue famoso el dirigible Norge?

En 1926, El Norge fue el primer vehículo aéreo que sobrevoló el Polo Norte (para ser precisos a la 1:30 hora de Greenwich, del 12 de mayo). El Norge, y su gemelo Italia habían sido ideados y construidos por iniciativa de Umberto Nobile, y la expedición fue impulsada por el explorador noruego Amundsen, quien ya en 1925 había intentado, sin éxito, sobrevolar el Polo Norte con dos hidroaviones. El dirigible Italia intentó repetir el viaje, pero terminó en catástrofe. Debido a la acumulación de hielo y al mal tiempo, el dirigible fue perdiendo altura hasta estrellarse contra los hielos polares. Del choque, se desprendió la barquilla principal, donde viajaban Nobile junto a la mayoría de los tripulantes. Aligerado por la pérdida de la barquilla, el dirigible volvió a remontar un vuelo incontrolado, y (arrastrado por el viento) , se perdió para siempre. Los tripulantes de la barquilla establecieron un campamento improvisado, y pidieron socorro por radio. Por casualidad, sus débiles transmisiones fueron captadas por un radioaficionado ruso. Pocas semanas después, un avión localizó el campamento de Nobile y los supervivientes fueron rescatados.

¿Se hacían viajes con pasajeros?

Con el Hindeburg ese estableció la primara ruta comercial de pasajeros entre Europa y Estados Unidos. En uno de sus viajes, y al tomar tierra en Estados Unidos el Hindenburg fue víctima de un espectacular incendio que lo destruyó totalmente, aunque salvaron la vida gran parte de los pasajeros. Este accidente señaló el fin del dirigible como vehículo de pasajeros.

desastre hindenburg

¿Se usan todavía los dirigibles?

Sí, pero en raras ocasiones y solo con objeto publicitario o como plataforma para cámaras de televisión en la retransmisión de acontecimientos deportivos. Para este último caso, un pequeño dirigible presenta unas ventajas muy considerables sobre un helicóptero, puesto que su estabilidad y ausencia de vibraciones lo hacen muy conveniente para la calidad de las imágenes retransmitidas. El tiempo de permanencia en el aire es considerable, superior al de un helicóptero. 

Durante las últimos años, se ha pensado en el dirigible para transporte de carga, y sustituir así al helicóptero, que resulta caro.

 

 

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