David Schwarz

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David Schwarz Austrian balloon inventor credited with inventing the rigid airship.[1][2]

Schwarz was born in Keszthely, within the Kingdom of Hungary and therefore within the greater Austro-Hungarian Empire. He married into the timber business and got interested in related machines. He developed airship plans, the development of which were funded by the Russian Ministry of War for two years. He constructed an prototype but it wasn't sufficiently airtight to fly. After no success he went to Berlin and solicited the Prussian Ministry of War but ultimately did not receive funding from them.[3][4]

His wife completed the construction of his plan for a rigid airship, and it was flown in 1897. This vessel was made from aluminum, with 157' length, elliptical cross section 46' x 39', and capacity of 130,500 ft3. Also the first working airship using a gasoline engine—a 12-horsepower Daimler.

His metal envelope was riveted together and apparently was not sufficiently gas-tight for the purpose, although the reports indicated that his chief trouble was in devising some means of filling it. Since the metal hull could not be flattened out and then inflated like a fabric balloon, this problem was really serious. On its first and only flight the airship apparently started out quite well but reports differ as to its landing. One version has it that the gas leaked through the seams so rapidly tha[t] the pilot was forced to come down. Another source claims that the driving belts came off their pulleys, leaving the pilot with no means of control and forcing him to land. Both reports agree that the airship was badly damaged in landing, although the pilot escaped unhurt, and one report added that curious sight-seers who removed much of the material put the finishing touches to the work of the wind.[1]

See: Moedebeck, 1898, The German Aluminum Balloon.

A popular story tells that Schwarz obtained a [German?] patent [in 1890?] which Ferdinand von Zeppelin purchased from his widow.[3][5] Another version of the story is that Zeppelin negotiated with Mrs. Schwarz for her aluminum contract with Carl Berg.[6][7][8][9]

Publications by or about David Schwarz


  1. 1.0 1.1 Black, 1943, pp. 19–20. (Calls him inventor of "first all-metal balloon actually to leave the ground.")
  2. Hans Fabian, "Aeronautical Research Comes into Being During the Time of the Empire", in Hirschel, Prem, & Madelung, 2014, Aeronautical Research in Germany, p. 24.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Alexandra Béni, "Dávid Schwarz, the pioneer of airships", Daily News Hungary, 5 March 2016.
  4. "Development and Present Status of German Airships", Automotive Industries, Vol. 44, May 19, 1921, p. 1057.
  5. [1]
  6. Relly Victoria Virgil Petrescu and Florian Ion Tiberiu Petrescu, "Aviation History, Part II", August 2017.
  7. [2]
  8. De Syon, 2002, Zeppelin!, pp. 20–21.
  9. [3]


Names David Schwarz; David Schwartz; David Švarc; Dávid Schwarz
Birth date 1850-12-07
Death date 1897
Countries Austria
Locations Keszthely; Zagreb; St. Petersburg; Berlin; Vienna
Tech areas LTA, Rigid, Frame, Aluminum, Wood
Wikidata id