THE DAY OF ECHTERDINGEN
On August 4th, 1908 - it was a glorious though a very hot day - the L.Z.4 finally left Manzell for her long flight. She ascended at a little after six o'clock in the morning and an electric spark was transmitted to every receiving station in the world to announce that the L.Z.4 had started on her historic flight. At that time wireless equipment was still relatively undeveloped and small rotary spark transmitters were used. It was not until 1910 that Lloyd's published their first shipping report received entirely by wireless.
Zeppelin had planned the route to be travelled by the L.Z.4 very carefully. She was to fly down the Rhine via Basle to Mayence and then back to Lake Constance. By half past nine in the morning the ship had reached Basle: by twelve-thirty she was seen over Strasbourg: at two o'clock she had passed Speyer and at half-past four she had reached Darmstadt.
Soon after Zeppelin had left Darmstadt, the oil circulation in the front motor showed a slight defect which caused the engine to become overheated. Zeppelin, who never took any unnecessary chances, ordered a short landing. The ship descended at Nierstein on the Rhine and remained there until the slight repair necessary had been made.
The L.Z.4 reached Mayence safely by midnight. Then the ship was steered round towards the south. She began her homeward journey. Near Mannheim the front motor again began to give trouble. Zeppelin made a quick decision. He realised the great dangers involved in a landing by night, so he nursed the motor along as well he could and reached Stuttgart safely by half-past six in the morning. The L.Z.4 had been moving very slowly. She had been practically dependent upon only one motor and the prevailing heat had caused her to lose considerable quantities of gas. Zeppelin decided to land not far from Stuttgart, at the village of Echterdingen, near the Daimler Automobile Works.
The landing was perfect. The huge ship sailed down to earth as gracefully as an ocean liner steams into her home port. A crowd had already gathered by the time Zeppelin had left the ship and he walked slowly to the village inn at Echterdingen - the "Hirsch" it was called - for breakfast. He felt more lighthearted than he had for years. The two emergency landings he had been forced to make had somehow encouraged him: he had realised how the motors in the airship could be made even more efficient: the landings themselves had been as simple as they had been perfect. No one, he thought, not even the sceptical experts at the Prussian Ministry of War, could doubt the future success of his airship any longer.