Today is the anniversary of the tests of the first Russian airship, built in 1812 year in the estate near Moscow Vorontsovo under the leadership of the German carpenter and self-taught inventor Franz Leppich. According to the inventor, his airship had to lift as many 50 people and fly in any direction, including upwind. The airship was planned to be used as a ground attack aircraft and bomber in the upcoming general battle with Napoleon’s army.
For this, Leppih assumed to load it with boxes of gunpowder and dump them on enemy soldiers through hatches in the bottom of the gondola. Obviously, these improvised "bombs" were supplied with some kind of percussion fuze, but nothing is known about their design. In addition, according to the designer, the airship was supposed to be armed with rocket launchers, however, given that the balloon was filled with hydrogen, it was not a very good idea.
At the top is a drawing of the airship, made from the preserved outline of Leppich himself, and at the bottom is his modern reconstruction. The device was a large balloon-shaped pear-shaped 57 meters long. It was covered with a rope net, and a wooden power frame and a gondola were suspended from it. Behind the hinges was attached the "tail", which served as the elevator, and on the sides - the "oars", which were actuated by the "oarsmen" sitting in the gondola. Unfortunately, neither Leppih himself, nor his curators, who had allocated funds for the construction of the airship, did not know that the rowing propulsor was absolutely ineffective for aircraft due to the low density of the earth's atmosphere.
Thus, the project was initially unviable. It is curious that at first Leppih offered this "flying gallera" to Napoleon, but he called him a swindler, ordering him to be kicked out of his palace and expelled from France. Then the inventor decided to try his luck in Prussia, but the reaction of the local authorities was similar. Leppihu was forbidden to raise funds and conduct any work, and then ordered to leave the country.
And only in Russia the ballooning enthusiast found understanding and support. He was patronized by the Moscow Governor-General Rostopchin, at whose request Leppih was allocated enormous money from the treasury, according to various sources - from 170 to 320 thousand rubles. In those years it was possible to build a double-deck or three-deck battleship with full equipment and rigging for this amount. In May, 1812, hiring 60 craftsmen - tailors, carpenters and carpenters, Leppih began the construction of his brainchild at a fenced and carefully guarded site in Vorontsov Park.
After three months, the work was completed, but the test result was depressing. The gondola turned out to be too heavy, and it was not possible to achieve complete tightness of the casing; Because of this, the airship, having only two people on board, was able to slowly take off only on 10-12 meters and in a few seconds it sank heavily back. It did not come to the test of oars, because the balloon could not lift the rowers, let alone any other payload. The great hopes that the Russian military command and Mikhail Kutuzov personally pinned on Leppich's "miracle of technology" turned out to be in vain.
Before the surrender of Moscow, Leppih and his employees were hastily evacuated from Vorontsovo, taking everything they could take out on carts. The airship's gondola, which was too bulky and non-transportable, had to be burned. After moving to St. Petersburg, the inventor resumed work in Oranienbaum. In 1813, he built a smaller airship there, the images of which were not preserved. According to the report of General Vendome, with this aerostat, Leppih "did several experiments and climbed on tethers no more than 5 or 6 from the ground, but could not fly against the direction of the wind."
In the end, it became clear to everyone that the project was unsuccessful, besides, the war with Napoleon was going to a successful conclusion, therefore interest in the works of Leppih was finally extinguished. The funds allocated to him were written off at a loss. But, apparently, the inventor "saved" a considerable part of the money, since, having left 1814 from Russia, he immediately bought a decent estate in Bavaria. There he continued his studies with the invention, having patented a manicure machine and a machine for making nails. In 1819, Leppih unexpectedly sold the estate and drove off in an unknown direction. More about him is not known.
Despite the disastrous result of the Leppich epic, his airship had a number of priorities. First, at the time of construction, it was the largest aerostat in the world. Secondly, it was the first in the world airship of semi-rigid construction. The second aircraft of this kind appeared in France only after 90 years. Third, Leppih was the first to propose using a controlled aerostat for bombing. Finally, fourthly, it was the first aircraft of a streamlined and elongated shape in the direction of flight. Previously, all balloons were made in the form of a ball, an inverted drop, or a mushroom.