From the beginning of time, man has been enamored with flying, attempting different methods to 'soar with the birds'.   It was not until the  19th century that airships graced the skies and inspired the imagination and creativity of many people.  

The first ships were crude 'hot air ballon' type ships and had limited use. But this was the beginning for the airship, leading us to the present and the enhanced designs that we see now. Our Photo Gallery presents some of these first versions of airships, which you can compare with the airships of the modern era.

It was not until the early 20th century that airship design, development, and use  increased.  Germany started with passenger ships, such as the Zeppelin and Hindenburg,  making transcontinental and round the world flights.  In the 1920's, the U.S. Navy began to construct and commission rigid blimps using helium as an important part of their air fleet.  The first such rigid airship was the Shenandoah.  

When World War II started, the U.S. Navy actively used Airships - Blimps to patrol both the east and west coasts for submarines.   The use of blimps by the U.S. Navy continued after the war until about 1962.  You can still see some of the great blimp hangers in such places as Lakehurst, New Jersey, Tillamook, Oregon, Orange County, California, and Moffett Federal Airfield, California.  Many other old hangers exist through out the U.S.

The post World War II years saw limited use of airships, mainly for advertising, picture taking, and tourist rides.  The year of the Airship had faded.

But by the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century a revival of airship interest began with fascinating new designs.  ARL and similar research and development companies throughout the world are looking at airships and airship design as the future for specific and varied uses. Our Airships of the Future page details for you ARL's new design of the Shenandoah II. Our ship's design focuses on enhancements for lift, weight bearing, and distance of flight, increasing future use of airships commercially.

Unlike hot air balloons, airships have solid gondolas, engine-powered propellers and solid tailfins. There are three types of airships"
 
Rigid:  usually long (greater than 360ft/120,) and are cigar-shaped with an internal frame and case-filled bags, such as the Hindenburg.
 Semi-Rigid:  is a pressurized gas ballon or envelope attached to a lower metal keel.
 Non-Rigid or Blimp:  which has large gas-filled envelopes, a good example being the Goodyear Blimp.

It is fairly easy to look at the image of an Airship and with an acceptable degree of accuracy determine the air-displacement.  With this starting point, one can calculate a close approximation of the pay-load expected. Indicators in the image will also reveal whether a ship can be classified as a non-rigid, a semi-rigid, or a rigid airship.  One can gather an abundance of good information by what others are doing in design and development of airships.  When looking at images of future airships, keep in mind that the image presented may be animation only and has never been constructed, even as a scale model.  The most important thing that stands out in these future ship images is that all these projected new designs are working with expectations well under the 10MCF air-displacement figure.  A ship under the 10MCF figure is fine for jobs such as sight-seeing flights, advertising, or where the requirements for pay-load are under 50 tons.

ARL's conception of a new airship is one which can lift a payload of
500 tons (Heavy-Lift) and above.  Our concept requires no hangar or base facility, nor does it require a landing or take-off crew.  Most important, our airship can seek equilibrium without outside help, with or without the pay-load.  Take a look at our Future Airship page and the Shenandoah II.


We have focused our history on three segments of airship history, offering you a perspective of the glory days of the Airship.  In addition, you will find a brief overview of the direction with which airships are going since their heyday of the early to mid 20th century.  These segments are enhanced with a few pictures to whet your appreciation of airships, so be sure to view the Airship Photo Gallery for more pictures of the past and the modern era.

There are many fine websites you may visit should you wish more knowledge of the history and the future of airships .  These are some of the websites we suggest you browse for a good written and visual history of airships and airship components:

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airship
www.airships.net/
www.blimpinfo.com/
www.naval-airships.org/Default.aspx?pageld=519984
www.hnsa.org/doc/sonar/chap16.htm#pg
298

www.science.howstuffworks.com/transport/flight/modern/blimp4.htm
www.modern-airships.info
www.ecogeek.org
www.popsci.com
www.spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/airships-for-the21st-century
www.theregister.co.uk/science/
www.century-of-flight.net/

  
There are many more excellent websites with information of both the past, the modern era, and the future of airships.  We have only listed a few.  




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A Look Towards the Future


When it comes to moving cargo, most people think of airplanes (fixed wing airships), trucks, ships or trains.  These are the traditional modes of transportation, but what if you expand this list to include airships.

Airships may offer something that the other modes of transportation do not.  Consider the new airship designs, such as ARL's Shenandoah II.  Heavy-load airships can carry large pay-loads greater distances to even remote areas with little or no infrastructure needed. These newer designs can dock without established mooring masts or water-ballast supplies. Just envision the uses and place to which an airship can deliver supplies and equipment. 

However, some of the new Hybrid airships in design or development have some major issues with ground handling.  Traditional Airships require large ground crews and are very sensitive to wind at ground level.  These hybrids are only slightly heavier than air and may have some ground handling difficulties without vast improvements as found in ARL's Shenandoah II.  

Trying to find the right design, there are at least 16 companies world-wide with projects in various stages.  In the U.S.  DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and some Congressional earmarks have funded some of these adventures.  A few have been cancelled as of this date, but the US military sees a major role for airships in the future.

We have listed below some noteworthy historic prototypes and experiments:

  • The Heli-Stat was an airship/helicopter hybrid built in New Jersey in 1986.
  • The Aeron was a hybrid aerostatic/aerodynamic craft built in the 1970s.
  • They Cyclocrane was a hybrid aerostatic/rotocraft in which the entire airship enveloped rotated along its longitudinal axis.
  • The CL 160 was a very large semi-rigid airship to be built in Germany by the start-up Cargolifter, but funding ran out in 2002 after a massive hangar was built.  Just outside of Berlin, this hangar has since been converted into a resort, "Tropical Islands."
  • The WALRUS HULA was a short-lived project in 2005 focused on long distance and heavy lifting funded by DARPA



The Airship future looks bright, and ARL, with it's new design, is at the forefront of a new era for Airships.








                   


  
                            





      








 
                The Shenandoah 















 During 1922 and 1923, the US Navy commissioned it's first rigid airship, thee ZR-1.  Like other ships in the Navy fleet, the ZR-1 was designed for hydrogen use.  However, in August 1921, a R-38 hydrogen based ship burst into flames.  One week later, 3 blimps at Rockaway Naval Air Station were destroyed by a hydrogen fire, prompting the Aeronautics Bureau to recommend that the ZR-1 be inflated with inert helium.  Experiments with the use of helium began with the ZC-7 blimp.  Another tragedy cause by a hydrogen fire on February 21, 1922 occurring with a US Army semi-rigid blimp, Roma, killed 34 or the 45 men aboard.  This provided overwhelming evidence that helium should replace hydrogen as lifting gas.


With this change, the first ZR-1 began assemblage in hanger No. 1 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station from parts fabricated at the naval aircraft factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Transported to Lakehurst by rail and truck, the first ring (frame) reached the base in late April, 1922.

Once the parts were at Lakehurst, assembly proceeded rapidly.  The hull of a rigid ship was composed of alternately spaced main and intermediate rings or frames connected by longitudinal girders.  The concentrated weights (fuel, ballast, and other useful loads) were distributed along the keel passageway, which ran through the airship.  Radial and chord wiring strengthened the frames and kept the individual rings separated and aligned despite the various static and dynamic loads imposed on the structure.

By mid August 1922, 11 of the frames were in place, and by November, the hull was 75% complete.  The gas cells were readied for installation.  A transverse network of tensioned wires, which gave strength and stability to the rings, provided bulkheads, which divided the hull into ten-meter bays.  It was into these bays that 20 gas cells were fitted, providing the needed lifting elements for the ship.  On November 23, the first gas cell was placed mid hip and test inflated with air to 100% fullness.

The hull was virtually complete by February 1923, and now the outer cover, made of high-grade cotton fabric, was applied.  The cover panels were placed over the entire hull.  Several coats of 'dope', which shrank the material tight between the individual panels.  This provided for a smooth outer surface over the joints and continuity for the ship's exterior surface.  The final coat, mixed with aluminum power, provided a smooth, weather resistant skin, which also reflected the sun's heat away from the lifting gas.

At the same time, the general outfitting of the ship began: ballast bags spaced along the keel-way, positioning of control wires, fuel and water lines, pumps, and equipment needed to operate the airship.  The control car and engine gondolas also were nearing completion.  The aft power car and the control car were equipped with handling rails for ground crew, which allowed the airship to rest on the ground at 2 points.  The forward car was suspended from the hull by struts and cables, unlike future ships, which had their forward cars built up against the hull.  The 6 engines were suspended outside and away from the hull in separate pods.  One of these engines was located in its own car immediately behind the control car, but it was later removed.

On August 20, 1923, 4 days after inflation , the ZR-1 was officially launched.  With the full flight crew on board, 278 ground crew manned their stations along the hull at the handling lines.  By 14:34 (2:34 PM), the ZR-1 was floating free of the shoring aft, and the first US rigid airship had been launched.

Late afternoon of September 4, 1923, with 15,000 spectators including dignitaries, reporters - some with 'newsreels', the ZR-1 was walked out of Hanger No. 1 for the first time.  This required 420 sailors, marines, and station civilian employees utilizing primitive mechanical equipment. (Significant improvements in ground handling were 5 years in the future.)

At 17:20 (5:20 PM) and well clear of Hangar No. 1, ZR-1 lifted off after being swung into the wind.  With 29 on-board, the local flight was the first ever achieved by a helium inflated rigid airship.  Only 4 of the 6 engines were used, and these at half speed.  After 55 minutes of flying, the airship landed.

Officially named the Shenandoah at a christening ceremony on October 10, 1923, the ship's commanding officer used full naval honors to welcome Secretary of the Navy Edwin Denby, his wife and a party of dignitaries including Admiral Moffett.  Mrs. Denby had the honor of christening the ship - USS Shenandoah.

This was the exuberant 1920's  and the Shenandoah became the darling of the press and public.  Publicity flights to show off the new airship to the northeast and midwest dominated Shenandoah's schedule.

Military operations in this period consisted of a number of local flights to train with Lakehurst's new mooring mast.  Construction of a permanent mast had begun in late 1921 when an area about 4,000 feet from Hangar No. 1's west doors was cleared.  Construction then commenced on a 165 foot steel tower to receive and replenish the ship.  The installation was in its final stages by September, 1922.  The base of the tower housed the machinery - main and auxiliary wenches for the mooring lines, electric pumps for fuel and water ballast, a workbench, and office, and the entrance to the elevator to reach the masthead.  It also housed quarters for a mast watch for 4 officers and 12 enlisted personnel.  The quarters were enlarged in 1925.  This first impressive mast was equipped with 3 platforms, elevator, communications system, electric lights including flood lights for night operations, and piping for gasoline, oil, helium, and water ballast.  The small elevator ran up the middle of the triangular tower to the first platform - 136 feet above the airfield.  From here, a ladder reached the operating platform 12 feet higher.  Communication between this level and the machinery at the base was via electric winch telegraphs, voice tubing, and telephone.  The third platform at 160 feet held the mooring equipment and quick couplings for connection to the airship's own lines.  Access to the airship was by gangway let down from the ship's nose to the main platform.  On the ground surrounding the tower were equally spaced 'snatch' block anchorages.  Lines from auxiliary wenches led through these blocks and received the ship's 2 yaw lines let down from the bow.

The mast offered operational flexibility by allowing independence from the hangar.  As an example, a returning airship could postpone docking if conditions on the field were unfavorable for this delicate maneuver.  Shenandoah used the mast for the first time on November 16, 1923 when the ship was unable to moor - the entire crew was learning by trial and error.  The ship made 2 successful moors in December and again in January, then began extended mooring trials.  These tests were in preparation for the proposed and much talked about flight to the Arctic - a Polar Expedition.

The Bureau of Aeronautics and even Admiral Moffett held unrealistic ideas about this large rigid ship.  The New York Times had reported earlier in 1923 that this airship would be sent over the major cities of the US, around the world, and to both poles.  Reality was that the substitution of helium instead of hydrogen drastically reduced the airship's cruising range.  In addition, the ship's crew were learning as they flew, the Navy had only one large Lighter Than Air (LTA) base, and even by 1924, crews did not have full operational use of masts.  Extended mast trials began in earnest as the masts would be the only 'base' available for the Shenandoah.

On the evening of January 12, 1924, the ship carried out all operations from the mast.  Commander McCrary intended to keep the ship at the masthead with a skeleton crew aboard for a week to test the ship in bad weather.  The crew was to take to the air if conditions demanded.  The Aero Logical  Office issued an advisory on 1/14/1924 for gale force winds on 1/16 and 1/17.  Because winds of 60 miles per hour were wanted for the trials, the ship stayed on the mast.  On 1/16, the sky clouded over and the wind picked up so that by 15:00 (3 PM), the airship was rolling slightly and continuously.  By 16:00 (4 PM), the watch changed and there was a driving rain with wind gusts up to 63 miles per hour.  McCrary, who had left the ship at 17:00 (5 PM) for his quarters nearby was called back because of the decision to unmask and ride out the storm aloft.  A gust of wind clocked at 78 miles per hour stuck at 18:44 (6:44 PM), rolling the =hull severely and destroying the top fin.  This twisting wrenched the nose cap free from the ship, destroying the forward framework and deflating 2 forward gas cells in the process.

"The aircraft began to fall.  The men on duty in the control car saw the masthead lights disappearing upward and knew instantly that the ship had broken free.  Nearby, in the BOQ an officers bridge game was abruptly halted. 
Shenandoah was gone.  She was no longer riding at the mast.  We all went dashing over to the mast through the wind and rain, and there was the nose structure of the ship hanging on the mast along with some heavy mooring gear from the ship (mooring winches and cables) which had fallen to the ground.  It was obvious that the gas cell in the bow had been torn and deflated as the ship broke away."  Calvin M. Bolster.

The ship's crew instinctively reached for the ballast toggles and dropped 4,200 pounds of water.  Men were ordered aft as the Shenandoah drove stern first across the field nose down.  Barely clearing the trees bordering the field, the ship's 20th flight was a wild ride.  Mechanics on watch began signaling via telegraph:
".....quickly the engines started in response to the signals, fortunately the controls were intact.  Slowly the personnel gained the upper hand.  Up in the bow, the keep crew struggled frantically to seal the open end to prevent the rush of air from destroying cell  after cell like a row of dominoes.  Weights had to be shifted, fuel pumped about to restore the crippled ship to an even keel."  Lt. Comdr. C.E. Rosendahl, USN.

These maneuvers brought a measure of control and additional ballast was dropped to restore trim (fuel tanks, tools, and spare parts).  The ship ran to the northwest while Lakehurst waited anxiously without a word from the ship.  The radio had been dismantled, and the radioman worked to reassembled the wet and scattered pieces.  Shenandoah's first message was finally heard by Lakehurst at 21:00 (9 PM) - " All O.K.  Will ride out the storm.  Think we are over New Brunswick.  Holding our own.  Verify position and send us weather information. - Pierce"

Lakehurst replied that the ship was really over Newark, fifty miles north of the base and almost directly over WOR, a radio station located on top of a downtown building.  Commercial stations stopped broadcasting when WOR broadcaster Jack Poppele talked with the Shenandoah and relayed the ship's reports to Lakehurst until Lakehurst established direct radio contact at 22:00 (10 PM).

When the decision was made to return to Lakehurst as the wind died down, Shenandoah could not head directly into the wind.  With a damaged fin and steering difficulties, the ship nursed slowly back to Lakehurst and landed at 03:30 assisted by 400 ground crewmen.

This gale force wind was one of  the worst January storms in 50 years, causing property damage and a wild night for all at Lakehurst.  In addition to the difficulties with the Shenandoah, the high winds blew down the aerology instrument shelter and some of the observatory's windows were blown in.

The press and public were electrified by the high drama flight of the Shenandoah.  The crew preformed admirably, saving the ship and bringing it back to Lakehurst.  Both the President and the Secretary of the Navy congratulated the flight crew for their skill and courage.  An investigation found no blame or censure, and the recommendation for a mooring mast redesign was issued.

Although the Navy high command was still in favor of a Polar Expedition in June, others were not, including Congress.  Polar trip planning was stopped by President Coolidge in mid February 1924.  Even so Admiral Moffett and Navy high command, obsessed with public opinion, continued with unrealistic expectations for these large airships.

After extensive repairs, the Shenandoah had no flights during the first 6 months of 1925. Then the ship and crew went through maintenance and ground test.  Finally the
Shenandoah left Lakehurst on promotional flights to visit 40 cities and state fairs in the Midwest and to test the new mooring mast in Dearborn, Michigan.

Thunderstorms over Ohio early in the morning of September 3, on Shenandoah's 57th flight caught the ship in a violent updraft.  This updraft carried the ship above the pressure limits of helium.  The ship tore apart and crashed in several pieces over a couple of counties near Caldwell, Ohio.  Shenandoah's Commanding Officer and 13 other crew were killed, 29 survived.








Please view the Airship Photo Gallery page for more pictures of the Shenandoah.



ARL - AIRSHIP RESEARCH LAB
Your Subtitle text

History of Airships



  
     
A US Navy K-Ship Cabin Tour

Welcome aboard the US Navy's K-Ship, a flag ship during World War II and a key resource in searching for submarines off the continental shelf.  We would like to take you on a walking tour through the cabin and have you get a feeling of what it was like for those who served aboard this Blimp.

You are standing in about the center of the cabin facing forward. As you walk forward, you will begin to meet the crew, all of whom are wearing life vests.

The first crew member sitting on the left in the white shirt is the Mechanic, whose job is keeping the engines running and monitoring all fuel usage.  Next in line on the left is the Electronics Technician.  He operates the radar and the Magnetic Anomaly Detector or MAD (1).

Seated on the stool ahead of you is the Navigator, monitoring exact positions and preparing latitude/longitude numbers for the Radioman to send to home base every hour.

You now make your way to the 'deck' or cockpit, where you see a crew member looking out the front window.  He is acting as the forward Lookout.  Generally, the Lookout is also the Rigger, whose other jobs include patching holes, odd little jobs, but most importantly, cooking.

Not visible in the  picture above, but just to the left of the Lookout is the Pilot.  His major job is to control the elevator by moving a right angled wheel either forward or backward.  The elevator makes the blimp go up and down.

On the right side of the Lookout is the Co-pilot, equally as important as the Pilot as the Co-pilot is in charge of controlling the rudder, making the Blimp go either right or left.

Above the forward Lookout is a pull-down ladder that allows access to a small deck above the cockpit area.  Go ahead and pull down the ladder and climb up.  You will see a few small electronic units mounted here, but room to stretch out and rest with plenty of visibility outside.  Look closer and you will notice that the business end of this area houses a 50-caliber machine gun.

Climb back down and walk to the center of the cabin and look forward again.  The crew member on the right is the Radioman or Continuous Wave (CW) Operator.  This is the days before satellites, Single Side Band (SSB) radio, GPS and cell phones.  During certain periods of the day and /or seasons, old AM radio technology could not be counted on when out of the line of sight.  CW or code was the only way to get communications through when out of the line of sight (2).

You will notice in the lower right hand corner of the picture a curved black cover.  Under here is the Lawrence Auxiliary Power Unit (APU).  Even though the APU is covered, you might need to cover your ears as this is a real noise maker and runs continuously to supply electrical power for all the operating systems.

In the small cabinet just behind the MAD Operator is the most important place on the blimp - the galley.  Some mighty fine meals can be put together at this small spot, generally by the Rigger.

The deck panels, sandwiched between aluminum, are very light balsa wood and designed to be easily lifted out to gain access to various items such as radar antenna, landing wheel, depth charges, etc. Located overhead, but not visible, are a number of metal fuel tanks with easy read-out quantity gauges.

Let's continue our tour.  Turn 180 degrees and face the back of the cabin or aft.  The first item on your left in the over-head is a high-speed air-blower, controlled by the pilot with toggles.  This is used to selectively direct air into ballonets inside the gasbag, which is used to control trim and maintains the shape of the airship envelope with 1 1/2 inches of water pressure.

The next items on the left are off-duty seats with pull down bunks overhead, followed by the main entrance door to the cabin.  At the rear center is a chair with another 50-caliber machine gun facing aft.
   
The area at the rear on your right (left rear of the cabin) is the no frills, no privacy latrine or potty place.  

Between the latrine and the Mechanic, who you met when you first began your tour sits the Sonobouy, a storage and launching tube for the expendable buoys used when a submarine is detected and a trapping circle is initiated (3).

This concludes your brief tour, and we hope you have enjoyed this tour through the cabin of a US Navy K-Ship


(1) Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) was used to detect German submarines off the US continental shelf.  Once detected through a disturbance in the line of force, the crew would launch Sonobouys to mark the target and draw a trapping circle, drop 4 depth charges and leave the area.  A ship or fixed wing aircraft would be sent out to the target area. MAD was developed at Columbia University in New York CIty and first built by Airborne Instruments Lab on Long Island, N.Y.
(2) Line of Sight is actual visual sighting of an object.  The distance that could be viewed was dependent on the altitude of the blimp from the surface.  For instance, if the blimp was at 1000 feet elevation, the line of sight would be approximately 40 to 50 miles.  As you increase elevations, you would increase the visual distance.
(3) Sonobouys contained FM transmitters with a microphone.  When the MAD would detect a possible submarine, 5 differnet Sonobouys would be dropped within a mapped area called a trapping circle.   Each Sonobouy would have a different frequency and the crew would be able to pin point by frequency which Sonobouy was closer to the submarine, thus getting a better position on the target.




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The Great Zeppelins











From 1920 onward, the world was interested in large rigid airships.  

As a part of WWI reparations, the LZ-126 was built between 1923-24 at the Zeppelin factory in Friedrichshafen, Germany specifically for the US Navy.   This ship was the world's largest aircraft at 2,470,00 cubic foot airship.  Originally built as a commercial ship, she was crafted to carry 20 passengers plus crew.

In October 1924, the ship left Germany with a German crew and 3 American Observers and flew to Lakehurst Naval Air Station.  This 5,000 transatlantic flight took 82.5 hours.  

Commanding the ship was Dr. Hugho Eckener, head of the Zeppelin Company in Germany.

In October 1923, Zeppelin Company entered into an agreement with Goodyear Corporation, giving rights to Zeppelin's patents as well as key Zeppelin personnel, which brought Zeppelin's long experience with rigid airship design and construction to the US.  In exchange, Zeppelin received 10% of Goodyear stock and the knowledge that rigid large airships would have a future.  

Goodyear-Zeppelin USA, under the direction of Dr. Karl Arnstein, a key Zeppelin innovator and one of 13 Zeppelin personnel to come to the US,  created a innovative design for the largest airship yet to be constructed.  

This unique ship for it's time totaled 6,850,000 cubic feet:  785' long with a maximum diameter of 132' 11".  Full of innovations, the ship, instead of having the standard Zeppelin main rings had  sturdier deep frames reinforced by miles of radial wiring.  Instead of one keel, this ship had 3.  One keel was placed on the top of the ship with the remaining two at 45 degrees below the horizontal, which provided access to all parts of the ship and also tremendous strength.  

Designed with the ability to launch, retrieve and service 5 aircraft for scouting purposes, this innovation set this airship apart from all others.  The design also called for an internal hanger about a third of the way aft - 75' long and 60' wide.  Through a "T" shaped opening in the floor of this hanger, a trapeze could be lowered by which the 5 airplanes could be launched and retrieved via 'sky hooks' attached to the top of each airplane.  These planes would act as the airships 'eyes', extending the scouting area and allowing the more vulnerable airship to remain farther from any enemy aircraft carrier's fighter planes.  

The crew's quarters were on either side of this hanger, and these quarters included a mess, galley, washroom, and sleeping quarters both for officers and enlisted men.  The crew's quarters were heated by the cooling water from the engines, another first in design innovation.  

A small control car was built into the fore hull and an emergency control car was positioned in the lower fin. 

From the onset, this ship was designed to use non-flammable helium-a gas for inflation, which only the US had in sufficient quantity.  With this in mind, the ships 8 560hp Maybach VL-2 engines were installed within the hull along the 2 lower keels.  Each engine drove a propeller at the end of a 16' outrigger.  As the engines were reversible and the outrigger could swivel the propeller through an 90 degree arc, landings were aided by having thrust delivered in any direction. 


Other nations were also fascinated with large, rigid airships and tried their hands at building and flying these great ships.  Unlike Germany and the US, most were not successful.  

Germany's Graf Zeppelin's round the world trip was one of the highlights of the age of these great ships.   Douglas Botting's fascinating book "Dr. Eckener's DREAM MACHINE", about the history of the Graf Zeppelin and this round the world adventure is a must read for airship enthusiasts. 


One of the most tragic commercial disasters was that of the Hindenburg  at Lakehurst NAS on May 6, 1937.  

As the first 1937 transatlantic commercial flight by the Zeppelin Company from Germany to US, this was supposed to herald in 9 other transatlantic flights for the year. 

The ship departed Frankfurt, Germany on May 3 with 36 passengers and a crew of 61.

As the ship reached the US slightly behind schedule, bad weather further delayed docking at Lakehurst Naval Air Station.  The ship diverted for a tour of the New Jersey coast until weather conditions became more favorable for docking.

Turning back to Lakehurst in early evening, the ship was attempting to make a high mooring dock - flying moor by dropping landing ropes and mooring cables at high altitudes and being winched down to the mast.  This method used fewer ground crew.  

No one officially knows what really happened.  The ship burst in to flames, crashing to the ground, killing 37 on the ship and 1 ground crewman.  

This disaster effectively ended passenger carrying rigid airships.






Please view the Airship Photo Gallery page for more pictures of these great ships.
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