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Where the Zeppelins are made (photos)

Road Trip 2011: In Friedrichshafen, Germany, just a few miles from the Zeppelin Museum, where the long, great history of the airships is celebrated, Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik is making today's airships. CNET got a chance to visit the company's hangar and see work in progress.

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Daniel Terdiman

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1 of 15 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Zeppelin NT in hangar

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany--The blimp is so 20th century. Just ask Goodyear. Known around the world not just for its tires but also for its famous grey blimps, the company is said to be moving on from its traditional airships in favor of the modern version of a very old design.

The old design? Zeppelins, the airborne specialty of this town on the edge of Lake Constance that is in fact home to the Zeppelin Museum. And while they first flew in 1900 and became the most famous--and most infamous aircraft in the world--for a time, Zeppelins eventually faded away. Until recently, that is, when a company based here began making the airships again.

Known as Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik (ZLT), the company produces what is known as the Zeppelin NT, a new take on the venerable airship. Currently, three of the company's Zeppelins are making their way through the skies of the world, and with what it says is Goodyear's purchase of three Zeppelin NT model 101s, meant to replace those famous but aging blimps, it would have six airborne.

As part of CNET Road Trip 2011, reporter Daniel Terdiman stopped by ZLT in Friedrichshafen and got a first-hand look at the hangar where the company keeps the zeppelin that it uses to take passengers on flights, and where it is slowly building new airships.

This is the Zeppelin NT flown by Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei, a ZLT subsidiary.

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Audi A6 at Zeppelin NT hangar

Seen here in front of the Zeppelin NT hangar in Friedrichshafen, Germany, is the Audi A6 TFSI that CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman drove through Switzerland and Germany on "="" rel="follow">Road Trip 2011.
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3 of 15 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Zeppelin NT on mast

On a stormy day, ZLT's Zeppelin NT cannot take passengers aloft, so it sits inside the company's hangar in Friedrichshafen, Germany, moored to its truck-based mast.
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Rear with propellers

This is the rear rotor of the Zeppelin NT. Because of its internal airframe and flexible rotors, it is able to take off much like a helicopter, unlike a blimp, which has much less maneuverability. Rotors on the side of the Zeppelin can rotate up to 120 degrees, while the rear rotor can rotate 90 degrees. According to ZLT, "The capabilities of a vertical take-off, a precise landing, hovering on one spot and a backward flight are the unique flight characteristics enabled by the swivelling propellers."
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Truck

This is one of the mooring trucks inside the ZLT hangar.
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Scale model zeppelin

This is artist Josef Hawle's painted Zeppelin, "Luftschiff-Bodensee," created for the Zeppelin Parade exhibit in Friedrichshafen, Germany, and currently on display outside the offices of ZLT, in Friedrichshafen.
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Wide shot of zeppelin parts

Seen here, against the wall of the giant Zeppelin NT hangar, are struts and internal parts for a new Zeppelin that is being constructed inside the hangar. The parts are actually from a decommissioned Japanese Zeppelin and the new airship is scheduled to fly in April of 2012.
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Parts close-up

A close-up of some of the struts that will be used in the construction of a new Zeppelin NT.
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Parts 2

A close-up of a second set of parts for the next Zeppelin NT.
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Zeppelin NT parking

Those who have bought tickets to fly aboard the Zeppelin NT in Friedrichshafen park their cars near the ZLT hangar.
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Hangar exterior

This is the exterior of the Zeppelin NT hangar, just adjacent to the Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik headquarters in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
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Illustration

This is an illustration of a Zeppelin NT, as seen inside the Zeppelin NT hangar.
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Zeppelin NT interior frame

This is a ZLT archival photograph of the interior structure of a Zeppelin NT. One of the major differences between a Zeppelin and a blimp is that the Zeppelin has an interior structure, while a blimp doesn't.
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Engine

This is a Zeppelin NT engine, as seen inside the Zeppelin NT hangar in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Every Zeppelin NT has three Lycoming IO-360 engines with 197 horsepower each.
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The cab

This is the cab of the Zeppelin NT operated by ZLT subsidiary DZR.

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