Graham Dorrington is an Englishman who maintains a collection of antique farm tools. He has some eight hundred pieces: sheep shears and dyke shovels, a horse-grooming scraper and a muck rake, a variety of manure knives, a bull nose ring, an assortment of turnip choppers, all manner of breastplows, and something called a wooden dibber. The tools are made of wood and iron; they are meant for working the ground; many of them depend, for their function, on compliance with the downward drag of gravity; and their design has an earthbound, self-evidently utilitarian simplicity. In all these ways, the tools reflect qualities that are exactly the opposite of Dorrington’s great passion and vocation, which is flying.

Dorrington is an aeronaut. At Queen Mary, University of London, he is a lecturer in aerospace design, and among his recent publications are articles titled “Rationale for Supersonic After-Burning Rocket Engines” and “Drag of a Spheroid-Cone Shaped Airship.” But what really keeps him busy is designing, building, and flying dirigibles—lighter-than-air vehicles—or as he prefers to call them, airships.


Graham Dorrington. Photograph by Lena Herzog.