PROJECT: Cargolifter

Cargolifter AG was an enterprise focusing on worldwide logistics, with the goal of developing an airship that would transport a weight of up to 160 tons point to point. On a abandoned military airport in East Germany the enterprise which was a private investment started to build a huge research and production facility with money raised in an IPO. The enterprise went bankrupt before the first airship ever took off.

Today, the CL CargoLifter GmbH & Co. KG company, founded by former Cargolifter AG shareholders, seeks to sell the lighter-than-air technology and is exploring the construction of smaller airships.

Initial Situation

  • Cargolifter AG was created on 1 September 1996 in Wiesbaden, Germany. 
  • A public stock offering took place in 2000
  • The shareholder structure was characterised by a high proportion of small investors, 
  • Substantial press coverage of new breakthrough technologies being promised.
  • Offering a logistics service based on a point-to point transport of heavy and oversized loads.
  • Research, design, develop and produce airships and other lighter-than-air (LTA) technology 
  • Re-powering the oldest way of airborne transportation, the zeppelin
  • Establishing a lead position in the stratospheric airship market - a market that is set to grow significantly
  • Worldwide usage of CargoLifter airships for construction and other projects in remote areas would help minimise ecological damage by reducing the need to build extensive roads or temporary airfields.
  • An abandoned old Soviet military airbase in Brand-Briesen was used to build the production and operation center.
  • The facility was located approximately 60km. from Berlin
  • Expected cost of building one zeppelin was roughly half the cost of a Boeing 747. That is why CargoLifter has found its investors among many transport companies (such as Boeing) and industrial customers round the world.
  • Germany’s largest private company by number of shareholders; around 70,000. Of which 65% private individuals, 29% financial institutions and 6% industrial partners invested a total of 250 million euro


  • To build up to 50 CL160-airships by 2015 and an additional 10 CL75’s
  • To establish a global infrastructure system that could support the worldwide fleet of airships
  • Once in service, the vehicles would trigger a paradigm shift in oversized and heavy logistical solutions 
  • Cargolifter was more than a manufacturer of vehicles, it developed a structure whithin which all components necessary to design, develop manufacture and operate LTA logistics vehicles were present. 
  • 1998: The construction of a large hangar for production and operation of the CL160 and engineering team facilities were built on the former Soviet Air Force base at Brand-Briesen Airfield.
  • A small scale experimental airship known as “Joey” was built and had its maiden flight in October 1999.
  • Another aircraft, the “CL 75 Aircrane” transportation balloon prototype, of similar size was built but destroyed in a storm in July 2002.
  • A test flight above Manaus was supposed to take place in 2002, as this article mentions. The German company probably met insolvency before it could be done.
  • On 7 June 2002 the company announced insolvency, and liquidation proceedings began the following month. The fate of parts of the 300 million euros in shareholder funds from over 70,000 investors is still unclear.


  • Due to technical issues within the logistic chain of the LTA technology (docking the airships in extreme situations), the development of the Cargolifter halted.
  • In June 2003, the company’s facilities were sold off for less than 20% of the construction costs. The airship hangar was converted to a ‘tropical paradise’-themed indoor holiday resort called Tropical Islands, which opened in 2004.
  • The Skyship airship, which had been purchased by Cargolifter for training and research purposes, was sold to Swiss Skycruise and used in Athens for flights connected with the Olympic games held there.

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Project info




1996 - 2002


Due to technical issues, the project failed




Cargolifter AG, a private company with over 70.000 shareholders