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While airships in general are cool, the Cool Airship turns this Up to Eleven. Most of the time, it will have an impossibly cool design which would most likely be unable to fly in Real Life. (Fortunately, fiction has phlebotinum for that little problem). Cool Airships also tend to be exceptionally big (sometimes so big that they double as Airborne Aircraft Carriers or even airborne cities) and are frequently decked out with various weapons.
It's worth noting that not all airships are Cool Airships. For instance, the Goodyear Blimp is definitely not a Cool Airship. Like the Cool Car and the Cool Plane, the Cool Airship is exceptionally cool, and often impossibly so. Furthermore, it has to be owned by a major character, or otherwise play a prominent role, such as acting as the setting for a major scene. For massive cool points, there should be a small casino, bar, and sultry chanteuse on board the ship for the entertainment of the passengers. It goes without saying that these things are usually commanded by a Badass of some sort.
Unfortunately, with the destruction of the Hindenburg in 1939, airships mostly died out in Real Life, so there are, unfortunately very few examples in that category, with most modern airships being used for advertising or research purposes due to their quiet nature. It's unlikely that they'll ever make a large scale comeback, since militarily, radar has made them pretty much useless, and modern jets are much faster.
See Zeppelins from Another World for airships being used to help show the viewers that something is set in an Alternate Universe or Alternate History. The two can overlap, but Zeppelins from Another World are often just a background detail, and Cool Airships (including ones in Speculative Fiction) aren't always used to hint at an Alternate Universe setting.
See also Global Airship for the video game-specific variant.
Anime and Manga
- The Goliath and the Tiger Moth from Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
- Laputa also counts.
- Arcus Prima from Simoun. Also an Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
- The thieves' airship in The Daughter of Twenty Faces.
- The Silvana from Last Exile.
- Hell, EVERY ship from Last Exile.
- Mazinger Z: Guru, Count Brocken's aerial fortress. It appears for first time at the episode 40.
- Great Mazinger: Mykeros and Demonika, Mykene army's flying fortresses and aerial carriers.
- The Gekko from Eureka Seven.
- Which is also capable of suborbital/orbital operations.
- Millennium of Hellsing fame have three airships - the two Graf Zeppelins, one of which withstood fire from Harkonnan 2, and the Hindenburg II, which dwarfed Buckingham Palace and contained an army of 1000 vampires.
- Chao Lingshen's airship in Mahou Sensei Negima, which served as the stage for the final battle in the Festival Arc.
- When the group gets to the Magic World, there are cool airships everywhere, although they're somehow combined with the Flying Seafood Special. Haruna managed to get her hands on her own Cool Airship by drawing and selling dojinji to the lack of supply magic world and earned a fortune, and the Ala Alba uses it as their base.
- Gaiking: The Legend of Daiku-Maryu, the ship being the titular Daikuu Maryuu. The Daichi Maryuu and the Tenkuu Maryuu are also examples, though the Daichi is more like a Cool Tank. And they're all shaped like dragons.
- Lawrence III's airship Hikoukyuu from Pokémon 2000 and Zero's Megarig from Pokémon: Giratina and The Sky Warrior; also the Battle Pyramid (inhabited by Frontier Brain Brandon) most likely qualifies as an airship. All three of these crashed in pursuit of a Legendary Pokémon, no less.
- In Pokémon Special, there's the Team Rocket Airship that can turn into a stadium with a push of a button. Giovanni probably designed it that way specifically for his rematch with Red.
- And Team Rockets' Meowth-shaped hot air balloon, which just happens to be their main form of transportation. However, after they Took a Level In Badass in the Best Wishes anime, they abandoned the Meowth balloon and replaced it with a simple purple hot air balloon with a stylized Team Rocket "R" insignia on it.
- Code Geass has quite a few. The Ikaruga, the Black Knights' Airborne Aircraft Carrier, the Sky Fortress Damocles, the Avalon, which is Britannia's Airborne Aircraft Carrier, and there's also the fact that the above carriers are a standard part of Britannia's military.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! gives us Seto Kaiba's airship, which bears resemblance to your stereotypical blimps or semi-rigid frames (although, considering what it was capable of, it was probably rigid). The gondola on the bottom was large and comfortable enough to host the Battle City finalists and their friends, as well as Kaiba and his employees. There was also a lift which took people to the top of the airship, where a large duelling arena was installed, notable for having Tristan and Duke almost fall of the edge. Yup, children's card games are just that important.
- Hellywood from Now and Then Here and There is a prime example of this trope. It also leads to the possibility that the world that this show is set in is actually a dystopian steam punk world, since this beast of an airship flies on water! But probably (and hopefully) not.
- Professor Moriarty and Fu Manchu attack London with their Cool Airships in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
- The second Nite Owl in Watchmen has a cool airship, named 'Archie'. It's noted as the only airship in the world that can maneuver between buildings, and underwater.
- Both Classic and Ultimate Marvel universes have the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. In the classic universe, it seemingly stays airborne 24/7.
- Except for its almost yearly crashing due to attacks.
- Lord Blackpool's gigantic airship The Helio Arx in Lady Mechanika.
- The titular school in Sky High levitates, and constantly moves around to keep villains form attacking it.
- Franky's flying RAF base 'Manta Station' in Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow.
- Three guesses about which airship it is in the Czech film The Stolen Airship
- In Stardust, Captain Shakespeare pilots a flying ship, called the Caspartine. Literally. Like a sea ship that flies. It also harvests lightning.
- The Luxembourg from The Rocketeer.
- The Hyperion, the airship that carried the expedition in Island at the Top of the World.
- Valentine's flying, possibly sentient Tower from Mirror Mask.
- Have to watch again to double check but didn't it just jump really high not fly?
- Indiana Jones and his dad escape from one in The Last Crusade.
- Made all the cooler because it's a REAL Cool Airship, the Hindenburg.
- Max Zorin's airship from A View to a Kill may look like a boring old blimp, but does yours unfold from a construction shack and come with an integrated deathtrap? Max even gets to make a Bond One-Liner.
- Lee Scorsby's marvelously baroque transport in The Golden Compass surely qualifies here.
- The Great Race - Professor Fate has an exceptionally small Cool Airship - two-person, pedal-powered - this troper seriously wants one.
- The C-21 Dragon Gunship from James Cameron's Avatar.
- The 2011 version of The Three Musketeers has a definitely cool British airship based (in-story) on a Leonardo da Vinci design. Cardinal Richelieu's forces get an ever bigger one near the end of the film and use it to combat the former that the musketeers had hijacked. Both ships crash eventually, but The Stinger reveals Buckingham is back for a vengeance with a whole armada of airships.
- Al Oft the Lightyear blimp from Cars.
- Ratigan's pedal-powered blimp from The Great Mouse Detective, as well as the Union Jack and sardine can-made blimp used by the heroes.
- The Gyro-evac from Atlantis the Lost Empire.
- Kenneth Oppel's books, Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber, are the very embodiment of this trope: they take place in an alternate history in which airships never lost popularity, despite the Hindenburg incident, thanks to the new element 'hydrium'. This changes technological advancement to an enormous extent (for better or worse being extremely subjective) and airships and ornithopters are now several hundred times more popular than any sea-going vessel. The main character (Matt Cruse, a name which immediately screams "adventure/romance novel") starts out aboard the Aurora, an incredibly luxurious, enormous airship. Later on in Skybreaker, a very low-class ship is shown, and then another high-price ship that can also reach incredible altitudes. In the same book, the plot centers around an absolutely immense derelict airship.
- Robur's airship from Jules Verne's novel Robur the Conqueror. First published in 1886, it is possibly the ur-example.
- Would Pushpaka Vimana in Ramayana count as an ur-example? The book does not spare words in describing the "sun-equaling" splendor of this magical aerial vehicle which is "as fast as thought", capable of going anywhere at the pilot's will and is also apparently sentient enough to understand spoken commands.
- Though Albatross is not a lighter-than-air airship like most of these examples - it is a huge multi-propeller helicopter. The viability of heavier-than-air craft was disputed back then, and such a dispute is part of the plot, with Robur showing his ship is superior to any silly balloon.
- Every single novel in the Timeline Wars series by John Barnes involves a Cool Airship. The fact that the second book is named Washington's Dirigible is sort of a clue; that book ends with a climactic battle on the airship.
- Tarzan at the Earth's Core. The 0-220, the airship used by an expedition to travel to the hollow center of the Earth through the North Pole entrance. Instead of hydrogen or helium, it used vacuum tanks for lift. There's a complete description at the end of Chapter 2.
- The Hieronymus Bosch, the luxury airship that carries the scientific mission to the Amazon in A Season For Slaughter, the fourth book in David Gerrold's War Against the Chtorr series.
- According to The Areas of My Expertise, President Hoover spent the better part of the 1930s on his hoveryacht in the Caspian Sea. In the sequel, John Hodgman rides around in a zeppelin called The Hubris, given to him as a gift by Emo Phillips.
- From the Warhammer Fantasy adventures of Gotrek and Felix, the Spirit of Grungni, built by dwarf engineer turned Slayer Malakai Makaisson to fly into the Chaos Wastes. An airship, armed with gatling guns yet, in a world where most fighting is still done with sword and bow is cool indeed.
- Any and all sky ships from The Edge Chronicles probably fit this trope, more or less looking like a typical pirate ship, except capable of flying, and usually with a crew made up entirely of badasses.
- Not to mention they get their lighter-than-air capabilities from magic floating rocks.
- The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock has one.
- In the 1981 book Megalodon by Robin Brown, the protagonists have to transport a sperm whale thousands of miles to their base of operations in the Pacific. They discover that the only aircraft big enough is a MK-10 Low-Altitude Helium Dirigible tank transporter. While the vessel itself turns out to be quite cool, it's agreed by all concerned that the addition of an underslung sixty-foot whale elevates it to Crowning Moment of Awesome status.
- The Victoria from Jules Verne's first published novel, Five Weeks In A Balloon, is cool because it is capable of having its altitude controlled without losing gas or ballast, and therefore of staying aloft for five weeks to explore the heart of Africa. It's kept aloft by a combination of heat and hydrogen gas. The other characters point out how dangerous this is, but Ferguson, the inventor, is willing to take the risk. (The Other Wiki's page on the book has an entire section about how the balloon's mechanism as described by Verne is scientifically impossible.)
- Rudyard Kipling's "With the Night Mail" was set on an airship which got its lift from "Fleury's Gas," energized by "Fleury's Ray." This provided much more lift than hydrogen or helium, allowing the airship to be built with a more rigid structure and thus hit higher speeds. As in 210 knots at one point. (USS Macon maxed out at 76 knots.)
- Robert Rankin's novel, Retromancer, and the recent The Japanese Devil Fish Girl both feature different cool airships. The first plays music designed to herald the arrival of the ship by scaring the shit out of people.The chapter that features the airship attacking New York has diagrams as a chapter picture. The second crashes and burns. The second is touted as a fine example of British engineering. Make of that what you will.
- '70s novel A Game of Titans pits the Real Life Soviet aircraft carrier Kiev against the USAF nuclear-powered airship Grand Eagle. The airship carries a contingent of Harriers. It also has cruise missiles and lasers.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom stories include airships lifted by 'Ray Tanks'.
- The Arthur C. Clarke novella "A Meeting with Medusa" features a couple of Cool Airships. The story opens with the protagonist as captain of a 1500-foot-long helium-filled dirigible, intended to serve as a flying luxury cruise ship. Unfortunately, the Queen Elizabeth IV is destroyed in a freak accident during a test flight over the Grand Canyon. The action then flashes forward to seven years later, with the protagonist now about to embark on a voyage in the story's second Cool Airship, a nuclear-fusion-powered hot-hydrogen balloon—that will be dropped into the atmosphere of Jupiter.
- Jonathan Howard's Johannes Cabal the Detective has one with a murder mystery onboard. It also doubles as an aircraft carrier, with gryoscopic small fliers on its flat top.
- The Leviathan from the eponymous novel, is a basically a flying whale which entire onboard systems are also an ecosystem.
- The Ketty Jay from Retribution Falls
- The eponymous vessel in The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara series is one of the coolest of the Magitek airships the Rovers have started piloting in the 130 years since the previous Shannara saga.
- The Clementine, from the novella of the same name by Cherie Priest. In fact her whole Clockwork Century series is chock-full of cool airships.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who, "The Age of Steel".
- Also in Doctor Who, the UNIT airship The Valiant featured in several episodes in 2007 and 2008.
- Team Knight Rider has the heroes move around in one of these as well.
- SPECTRUM HQ in Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons.
- LazyTown's Sportacus not only travels in a cool airship, he lives in it too.
- The Aurora in The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne is the first dirigible in the world, owned by Phileas Fogg. It serves as the homebase of the main characters. Also, an episode is featured where villains make their own airship and arm it with heavy guns in order to support the South in The American Civil War.
- The Hindenburg is an example. It was a massive commercial airship made for Trans-Atlantic voyages. It even had a smoking room, which was extremely unusual for an airship that used hydrogen instead of helium. Unfortunately, its skin was painted in thermite (which is a major ingredient in rocket fuel), and an electrical storm caused a spark which ignited the skin, causing the hydrogen to ignite as well, making an inferno. Then again, it happened in New Jersey, so maybe the vessel just committed suicide because it didn't want to be in such an awful place.
- The US Navy operated six rigid-hulled airships, all but two of them were lost in a variety of accidents or bad weather. Two of the better known to this day are the USS Macon and USS Akron, which were also Airborne Aircraft Carriers.
- While none of the rigid-hulled airships stayed in service long enough to serve in World War II, a wide variety of non-rigid blimps served in maritime patrol duties throughout the war, keeping an eye out for German U-Boats that preyed on Allied shipping. A large part of what made them effective was the lack of German airpower in the Atlantic.
- Dungeons and Dragons:
- Mystara has a lot of these and most of the world was introduced via travel logs of one. Bonus points for having a Sourcebook named simply Top Ballista.
- Forgotten Realms magocracy Halruaa has levitating sailing skyships.
- Eberron has elemental airships, where elemental creatures are trapped in a crystal maze engine.
- Magic: The Gathering had The Weatherlight, a flying ship that could travel across the planes, and also served as the centerpiece in an epic plan to protect the world from extraplanar invasion.
- There was also its flying rival, The Predator.
- "Airlords of the Ozarks," an adventure for Twilight 2000, had the players, having returned to the U.S.A., recruited to investigate what turned out to be a neo-fascist movement using airships for raids to build a power base.
- Space 1889 has many of these, usually of flying battleship variety. Some of them are actually regular navy ships modified for aerodynamics and fitted with anti-gravitic propulsion.
- Ditto for the Sky Galleons of Mars, a tabletop game based on Space 1889.
- A Global Airship is a frequent feature of RPGs, often it will be an actual Cool Airship.
- Skies of Arcadia has all kinds of airships, but by far the coolest of the Cool Airships is the Delphinus, a Super Prototype battleship that your characters steal about halfway through the game. In a world where the majority of airships resemble old wooden sailing ships or World War I-era destroyers, the Delphinus is a sleek and angular death machine based on WWII-era battleships and armed to the teeth with cannons, magic cannons, torpedoes, and a Wave Motion Gun to make the Yamato green with envy.
- The Airship Captain in Nox is, well, The Captain of a Cool Airship.
- Orgrim's Hammer and the Skybreaker, airships used by Horde and Alliance as bases of operation in Icecrown in the new expansion to World of Warcraft are pretty cool. The Hammer is a larger, more badass version of the zeppelins Horde uses for transportation, while the Skybreaker is essentially a large ship with propellers fitted on it (and kept aloft by Rule of Cool alone). Both of them participate in the siege on Icecrown Citadel.
- More ships of the same models appear in Deepholm in the Cataclysm expansion, the Horde's having been shot down when the Alliance's was taken over by cultists. Another Alliance airship is in the final battle with Deathwing, chasing him when he flees to the Maelstrom. It gets shot down and crashes onto the Wandering Isle, bringing the peaceful Pandaren race into the Alliance/Horde war.
- Super Mario Bros 3 has an airship run for the Koopalings' fortresses! It's also the source of one of the most epic themes in the series.
- And of course, the airships
- The page image is Castle Wulfenbach, mobile fortress, administrative center and war machine of the Wulfenbach Empire in Girl Genius. It's roughly a kilometer long, has an entire fleet of additional airships to support it, and some of the people who work there haven't set foot on the ground in years.