The great pupa-shaped balloon of The Aeromodeller has a total volume of 800m3. Mounted on top of the Gondola are four 5hp (165cc x 4) motors, identical to those used on Flymo lawnmowers. Each motor drives one of four mahogany propellers: together these generate a lift equivalent to 50kg which propels the balloon forward at a speed of up to 20km an hour. Whether or not the full potential travelling speed is achieved depends on the level of wind resistance. When inflated with hydrogen gas rather than oxygen, the lifting capacity of the balloon increases substantially to 800kg.
© Maths Museum
The Aeromodeller was originally made as a flying house to impress Brigitte Bardot, She was always surrounded by so many people that I thought maybe she would like me to land in her garden with that thing; to impress her or escape with her. At that time I was sure it would work and it was naive of me not to think that it would. But it was naive of me to think that the authorities, the people who wear big caps, would let me fly in it. I never would have got to France or to Brigitte Bardot. I probably would have got five years in jail. That is what almost happened later. There was to be a big international exhibition in Sonsbeek [Netherlands]. The Zeppelin was standing by a farmer's house ready to go. First we'd inflated it with air and afterwards with hydrogen and at that stage it looked pretty dangerous even to me so I dropped any idea of flying with it. But the Sonsbeek community kept sending me telegrams saying that the police and the Burgomaster absolutely forbade it to fly to Sonsbeek. They even sent a second set of telegrams saying that I was liable to five years in jail if I even attempted it. But I was never going to do it anyway, because flying such a large object full of gas requires some thought.
I wanted to have another go at it, after reinforcing it and improving the handling, but the farmer who owned the field where it was, began to get concerned that the grass was getting very damaged. So the Zeppelin had to go. After that it voyaged to all the museums. It travelled a greater distance than most balloons and it became older more quickly from being in museums than it might have done otherwise.
Transparent PVC-film, woven palembang rattan, wood, metal, four Flymo engines, mahogany, servomotor, four fuel tanks and two fire-proof asbestos suits.
SMAK, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent