From his work during the First World War, Umberto Nobile was firmly of an Italian "school" of airship designers who believed that "semi-rigid" construction was superior to the "rigid" design favoured most notably by the Germans. His opinion was not changed by experience gained from Zeppelins LZ106 (ex German Navy L61) and LZ120 (the former "Bodensee" renamed "Esperia") allotted to Italy as part of the War reparations.
Working in conjunction with Pirelli at the Italian government airship works near Rome, Colonel (later General) Nobile designed and directed the construction of N1, the first of a series of the type. Her first trial flights were in March 1924 and proved so successful that no changes in the design were necessary. It was not long before the team backing Roald Amundsen's attempts to fly to the North Pole assessed that the N1 was the craft most suited to the task. So in 1925 the famous Norwegian arctic explorer and his financial backer, American Lincoln Ellsworth chartered the N1 after which she was modified for extreme cold running and named Norge, meaning Norway. Norge departed from Kings Bay on the island of Spitzbergen on 11 May 1926 and reached the North Pole at 01h25 GMT the following day. Flags of the three nationalities represented on board were dropped on to the ice and by the third day the airship had reached the Eskimo village of Teller in North Alaska. Of the 16-man crew on the polar expedition, six were Italians with Nobile as the ship's captain; Amundsen of course was the expedition leader. Sadly there was some friction between the two, largely because Nobile felt as if he were being treated as no more than a hired hand. Their controversies during and after the voyage looked set to continue into future years but with the dramatic death of one of them in 1928, all antagonism departed. Volume : 19 000 cu.m (670,980cu.ft) Length : 106 m (348 ft) Diameter : 19.5 m (64 ft) Engines : 3 x 245 h.p. Maybach Mb IV six-cylinder Useful load : 8 275 kg (18,243 lb) Max speed : 113km/hr (70mph)