Lightweight garage #20 Lightweight wing for the Hindenburg airship

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Lightweight garage, News
©Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH, In the music salon of the airship Hindenburg with Captain Karl Lehmann, Dr. Rudolf Blüthner, Prof. Franz Wagner and other guests

The vehicle

This time there is a lightweight piano in our lightweight garage, which is on board the airship LZ-129 Hindenburg was located. This is the sister airship of the airship recently presented in another article LZ-130 Graf Zeppelin II. Both airships were almost identical in construction, had very similar flight characteristics and were both very luxuriously equipped. At that time, traveling by airship was the fastest and most comfortable way to travel and cross the Atlantic, for example.

When in March 1936 the airship LZ-129 Hindenburg When it took off on its maiden flight, it also had the aforementioned wing on board, no doubt to celebrate the occasion in style. However, at around 370 kg, an ordinary wing would have been too heavy. That is why the Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbHfrom the Leipzig area, was commissioned to develop a particularly light piano.

The technology

In order to fulfill this wish, the Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH a piano which, like the basic structure of the airship, was largely made of duralumin and covered with a skin. The particular challenge was to achieve the acoustic and haptic properties of a conventional piano. A number of lightweight construction measures from aircraft/airship construction were adopted for this special piano. For example, the sound body consisted of a high-strength cast aluminum frame. The side walls, the fallboard and the lid were made of duralumin. Other flat components were also partly made of an aluminum lattice structure and covered with parchment. The entire wing stood on feet made of duralumin tubes. Only the acoustic components, such as keys, hammers and strings, were made traditionally. Despite its unconventional construction, the piano is said to have had a particularly full sound and was often played by passengers. During the first flight to America, the Dresden concert pianist Prof. Franz Wagner played various pieces by Chopin, Beethoven, Brahms and others. Those who wish can listen to Youtube a recording of the piano listen.

Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH, Leichtbau Piano and Zeppelin Hindenburg

Contrary to some accounts, the piano was not destroyed together with the LZ-129 in its tragic accident in Lakehurst. Shortly before the devastating accident, the piano was returned to the Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH and exhibited there. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during a bombing raid during the Second World War.

The lightweight aspect

Thanks to the extensive use of aluminum and other lightweight construction measures, a weight of 162 kg was achieved, an enormous weight reduction of just over 200 kg. Even today there are various efforts to develop lightweight pianos. Some research projects are investigating the use of fiber-reinforced plastics. In addition, there are now lightweight pianos that save weight and space, primarily due to their small size, reduced number of keys and alternative shape. Such pianos are available from Keybird Instruments with a flyweight of 50 kg. These are certainly not comparable with a concert grand piano.

Finally, I would like to thank the company Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH and especially to Dr. Christian Blüthner-Haessler for his support and permission to use the photos shown here.

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