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The CargoLifter is an airship currently in development in Germany. If it is ever to be built, it'll be the largest airship ever (larger than the Hindenburg, for example). CargoLifter is also the name of the company developing it.

It will be a semi-rigid airship, that is, a gas-filled hull stabilised by a longitudinal keel and no interior framework. Several thrusters will drive and control it when it carries up to 160 tonnes of heavy cargo around.

The purpose of the CargoLifter will be hauling stuff like generators or transformators which are a pain to transport at the moment, since this requires special vehicles and immense efforts to widen roads, reinforce bridges and such. That's why many of CargoLifter's strategic partners are electrical engineering companies such as Siemens or Alstom.

To house the airships, the world's largest airship hangers have already been built somewhere in the East of Germany.

Judge for yourself whether this baby is yet another reason why German engineering rules.

A great vision that unfortunately failed. A chronology:

September 1996
In Wiesbaden, Carl Freiherr von Gablenz founds the Cargolifter AG, with the aim to build an airship for commercial cargo transports, capable of lifting 160 tonnes.

May 1998
Construction of the giant hall in which the Cargolifter is to be built begins on the site of a former Soviet airbase in Brandenburg.

October 1999
The first experimental airship (called "Joey") with a length of 36 meters (the CL 160 would measure 260 meters) is launched.

May 2000
After moving the company base to Berlin, Cargolifter raises 270 million Euros in an IPO.

November 2000
The construction hall is completed. It is the world's largest hall without support pillars,measuring 107 meters of height, 320 meters of length and 210 meters of width.

January 2001
The Airbus consortium refuses to take a stake in the construction of the Cargolifter. This delays the construction of the CL 160. Plans are changed to first build a smaller airship, the CL 75, only capable of lifting 75 tonnes.

October 2001
The first CL 75 prototype is finished. It takes several months to find a potential buyers.

Spring 2002
After admissions that state subsidies will be necessary if the CL 160 is ever to be built, Cargolifter stock rates plummet. Boeing agrees to cooperate in the construction, but refuses to provide additional funds, as does the federal and state governments. On May 28th, the company declares bankruptcy

Since then
There have been numerous rumors of ever decreasing credibility about investors that would be willing to save the company, management changes, staff layoffs, assignments of blame, and an investigation concerning the intentional deception of investors in regard to the financial feasibility of the CL 160 project.

The question remains what will happen to the construction hall. Latest plans are even more extravagant than the original purpose: a British-Malay company intends to turn it into a giant greenhouse acting as a tropical resort.

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