Ilya's Reviews > The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed

The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed by John McPhee
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's review
Mar 07, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: engineering

In 1958, a Presbyterian minister from New Jersey had a vision of using dirigibles for missionary work in remote parts of the world: transporting goods and people cheaply and efficiently. The next year, he and a retired naval aviator founded a company called AEREON, honoring a 19th-century American airship. It built a trimaran airship, the world's first rigid airship since the Zeppelins of the 1930s. Unfortunately, in 1966 during taxiing trials a gust of wind overturned the aircraft; the pilots jumped and the airship was wrecked; it never flew. The company then had an idea of building a lifting body aircraft similar in shape to NASA's X-24, but huge, and filled with helium, which could lift a huge load like an airship, but would be controllable like an airplane. A helium-less prototype did fly in 1971, but the funding for the big ship was not forthcoming. When the company had spent "well over a million" 1960s dollars of investors' money, the SEC went after it, suspecting it to be an investment scam masquerading as an aviation company, and forbade it to issue any more stock. The SEC noted that the company failed to inform the investors properly that it was switching from a triple hull to a lifting body; somehow, the minister's religion did not compel him to do it. Since then there have been a few attempts to build an airship where only part of the lift comes from a lighter-than-air gas, and the rest comes from an airfoil, but none achieved commercial success.

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