By John M. Mellberg, EAA 109395
The EAA Aviation Museum’s new Zeppelin exhibit has been completed for viewing in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The exhibit showcases the newly restored 1:36 scale miniature of the D-LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II and the 1:250 scale model of the ‘original’ D-LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin, plus newly donated Zeppelin artifacts, including Zeppelin china, flown on both of the Graf Zeppelins and two unique and rare Baitz dolls, configured as court jester characters. These two dolls flew around the world on the Graf Zeppelin’s 1929 flight, brought along by Zeppelin captain Hans Von Schiller as gifts to a U.S. Navy captain, Franklin D. Buckley, and he passed them on to me years ago. The Zeppelin exhibit is beautifully positioned near the front entrance in the museum along the upper promenade where the Graf Zeppelin II model can be viewed close up and from below, on the ground floor where it can be seen from across the museum proper. Also displayed is a scale model of the new Zeppelin NT-07, (built by my friend Michael Robson of Great Britain) a semi-rigid design which first flew on July 2, 2000, the 100th anniversary of the first flight of the first Zeppelin airship in 1900.
The exhibit configuration was orchestrated by Ben Page, EAA’s museum collections curator, working with EAA’s exhibit design staff. Ben is also a fellow Zeppelin enthusiast. It was my pleasure to work with Ben and his boss, Ron Connolly, EAA’s director of museum and education, providing us with the workshop space to undertake the restoration of the GZII model. EAA’s facilities staff also generously provided assistance as needed. In particular, I’d like to recognize one EAA staff member, Bauken Noack. He was responsible for the design of the scaffold superstructure to hold the Zeppelin model aloft in the EAA Aviation Museum’s ceiling. He actually orchestrated the physical raising of the model while on a telescopic scaffold and secured the model overhead. Bauken had a personal interest in this project, as it was he, who as a five-year-old boy, accompanied his father on a walk-around/walk-through tour of the actual Graf Zeppelins when they had been retired from service and were in their respective hangars at Frankfurt Am Main International Airport, Germany, in 1939, prior to their dismantling and the outbreak of World War II. A sad ending for these two historic Zeppelins.
Construction of the Graf Zeppelin II model was a labor of love for me, one that took more than 17 years. As a docent, I’m extremely proud that the model has a long-term home at the EAA Aviation Museum.