Maritime Monday for Sept. 10th, 2012: Gasbags; A Blog About (Air) Ships (Part One)

Monkey Fist
Total Views: 117
September 9, 2012


original – Do Wild Radio Waves Cause Air Disasters? (Jul, 1933)
on Modern Mechanix blog


In a scene that could have been pulled straight from HG Wells’ classic War in the Air, a mighty air and sea battle between German and British forces is imagined in this fanciful 1915 Japanese lithograph. source: Knights of the Air: WWI as envisioned by the Japanese (c.1915) on DieselPunks

imageThe War in the Air is a novel by H. G. Wells, written in 1907, serialized and published in 1908 in The Pall Mall Magazine.

“The Channel had not yet been conquered by Bleriot when in 1907 H.G. Wells published his lurid The War in the Air, which had German Zeppelin-style dirigibles attacking the American fleet and raining bombs on New York; and, since Wells subscribed to the Yellow Peril, it also had a German airship shot down and washed over Niagara Falls by a Japanese air armada, manned by fiends with ultra-sharp swords for slicing up fallen adversaries like sausages”


see also: The German Air-Fleet – HG Wells’ War in the Air

The War in the Air
full text at Project Gutenberg

The War in the Air
public domain audiobook from LibriVox


Floating Mooring Mast Proposed as Way Station for Airships
from Popular Science (Apr, 1923)


“Lighter than Air” illustration of the USS Akron
by William Heaslip, 1931


Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Plant, Akron, Ohio
1930 – 1945 (approximate) — (1500 x 989)



Goodyear-Zeppelin Corp.; Penny Postcards from Ohio

see also: Tillamook Air Museum – hangers


Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company began producing airship envelopes in 1911 and introduced its own blimp, The Pilgrim, in 1925. image source and article

The Goodyear Type AD was a small airship built in the United States in the mid 1920s. The first example, christened Pilgrim, was Goodyear’s first civil airship, and their first airship to use helium as its lift gas.

Maximum speed: 51 mph (82 km/h) — Range: 525 miles (844 km)

The Type AD was a conventional blimp design with a gondola that could carry two passengers in addition to the flight crew. While usually described as a non-rigid type, the design in fact incorporated a triangular-section magnesium girder as a keel, fastened inside the envelope. The craft carried its own collapsible mooring mast which allowed it to “land” anywhere that 250 ft × 250 ft (76 m × 76 m) of clear ground was available.

A contemporary article in Flight describes the original intentions behind the design as:

“It is claimed that there is a great future for this type of airship, and its mooring masts should be found at country clubs, private estates, etc., while the holding of airship regattas—in the same way that motor boat and yachting clubs now have similar events—can also be held with success. Personally, we think this small “blimp” type of airship possesses great possibilities from the sporting point of view, as is the case with ballooning, although, of course, blimping comes out a trifle more expensive.”


U.S. Navy training airship DN.1 in 1917

The US Navy’s First Airship, 1915

On 01 June 1915 the United States Navy signed a contract for its first lighter-than-air (LTA) ship with the Connecticut Aircraft Company in New Haven, Connecticut. This first naval airship was designated the DN-1 and cost the Navy $45,636.

keep reading on Patriot’s Point

another photo: U.S. Navy’s DN-1 Airship

source above: CharmaineZoe’s Airships & Dirigibles Set on Flickr (60 photos)

articles on Modern Mechanics
War Weapons The US Needs; Air Dreadnaughts: (Apr, 1917) –
The Aerial Nemesis of Submarines (Jun, 1917)
Uncle Sam’s Amazing Warship of the Sky


Rigid Airship H.M.A. R34


British airship R-34 (nicknamed “Tiny”) was the first aircraft
to traverse the Atlantic from east to west, 6 July 1919.

R34 had never been intended as a passenger carrier and extra accommodation was arranged by slinging hammocks in the keel walkway. Hot food was provided by cooking on a plate welded to the engine exhaust pipe.

The crew included Brigadier-General Edward Maitland and a representative of the US Navy. William Ballantyne, one of the crew members scheduled to stay behind to save weight, stowed away with the crews’ mascot, a small tabby kitten called “Whoopsie”; they emerged at 2.00 p.m. on the first day, too late to be dropped off.

R34 left Britain on 2 July 1919 and arrived at Mineola, Long Island, United States on 6 July after a flight of 108 hours with virtually no fuel left. As the landing party had no experience of handling large rigid airships, Major EM Pritchard jumped by parachute and so became the first person to reach American soil by air from Europe. The return journey to Pulham in Norfolk was from 10 to 13 July and took 75 hours.

image: Tomorrow the World from AirMinded; Airpower and British Society

see also: R34 airship

March 1919: British airship R33 in its hangar as it prepares for
its first ever flight at an aerodrome in Barlow, Yorkshire

Sister ship R33, went on to serve successfully for ten years and survived one of the most alarming and heroic incidents in airship history. She was called a “Pulham Pig” by the locals.

On the night of 16/17 April, the R33 was ripped from her mooring on the mast at Pulham during a gale by a strong gust of wind, and drifted away with only a small “anchor-watch” on board. Her nose partially collapsed and the first gas cell deflated leaving her low in the bow. Wind and rain blowing into the bow added to her tilt down. The crew on board started the engines gaining some height and rigged a cover for the bow section, but the R33 was blown out over the North Sea. A Royal Navy vessel was readied and left the nearby port of Lowestoft lest the R33 come down in the sea. The local lifeboat was launched, but was driven back in the face of the weather conditions.

Some five hours after the initial break from the mast, the R33 was under control but still being blown towards the Continent. As she approached the Dutch coast the R33 was ordered to land at Cologne where the Germans could assist. Late in the evening the R33 was able to hold her position over the Dutch coast, hovering there until 5 o’clock the next morning. She was then able to make her slow way back home, arriving at the Suffolk coast eight hours later and making Pulham at 13:50 hrs where she was put into the shed.


R33 – With a reputation for being the luckiest in the British fleet
on The Airship Heritage Trust

woopsie: R33 Airship Arrives at Pulham 1925

The R 31 was sold for scrap to a coal merchant for £ 200. The merchant though he make a profit selling the remains as firewood, but following complaints by his customers, he discovered that the wood would not light as it had been treated with a fireproofing chemical. –source

English AIRSHIP R-37 Promotional Book AIRWAYS, Circa 1920 – full size


R38 / ZRII  The world’s largest airship, who had a future in the
United States but failed to reach her destination


1925 … zeppelin at sea – (1904 x 2586)


“Illustrations of the Five Major Types of Lighter-Than-Air-Aircraft”
Popular Mechanics, June 1930

see also: Details of Modern Airships – 1927


The only semi-rigid used by the Navy, the O-1 Airship, purchased from Italy
image source

Semi-rigids were built in quantity from the late 19th century but since the 1930s they fell out of favour until the development of the Zeppelin NT. In the first decade of the twentieth century, semi-rigid airships were considered more suitable for military use because, unlike rigid airships, they could be deflated, stored and transported by land or by sea.

The most advanced construction of semi-rigid airships between the two World Wars took place in Italy. There, the state-factory Stabilimento di Costruzioni Aeronautiche (SCA) constructed several. Umberto Nobile, general and director, designed and flew several semi-rigid airships, including the Norge and Italia, for his overflights of the North Pole, and the W6 OSOAVIAKhIM, for the Soviet Union’s airship program.



Vintage original film posters – (see full size)

imageHell’s Angels (1930)
Director; Howard Hughes

Just before WWI, brothers Monte and Roy Rutledge visit Germany with Karl, their German pal at Oxford . When war breaks out Karl is called back to Germany and ends up on a Zepplin bombing London. He directs the bombs so that they fall harmlessly in water.

Discounting early works like Intolerance (1916) where nobody really knew how much was spent on them, Hell’s Angels set a record for expense that took nearly 20 years to break, and it was released in the midst of the Great Depression, when Hollywood was starting to be more aware and wary of its profligate tendencies. Yet Hell’s Angelseventually piled up nearly $18 million at the box office and made Jean Harlow a movie star.

All in all, not bad for an independent film. Hughes was, at the time, little more than a clever rich kid bedazzled by planes and movies, seeking to combine those two obsessions into one massive project.

He poured his personal gusto and finances into a labour of love that took four years to complete, saw him wield the largest private air force in the world to make his vision come true, and resulted in the deaths of four airmen. –source

Hell’s Angels on imdb – on wikipedia

Crashing a Zeppelin for Fun:
Jealously guarded secrets of the amazing Zeppelin crash in “Hell’s Angels” now revealed to Dick Cole by Howard Hughes, the producer of this spectacular movie.


Maiden Voyage of USS Akron


USS Akron approaches mooring mast


Damage to the airship’s lower fin, 22 February 1932. Akronwas being removed from her hangar at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, when the wind caused her tail to break loose from the rail car used for maneuvering the airship on the ground. A party of Congressmen was waiting to board Akron at the time, and Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, was also present.

This photograph was taken immediately after the accident, and shows RAdm. Moffett in the left center, facing the camera.

Though her fin was seriously damaged, Akron was repaired in about two months.

more on USS Akron (ZRS-4), Airship 1931-1933 – Events

VIDEO: Navy Dirigible, Akron Injured by Sudden Gale 1932/2/22


USS Akron; Lakehurst, NJ
from Hall of Giants (more photos)


USS Akron at San Diego, May 1932


U. S. S. Akron, Navy Airship and Capitol Buildings Washington, D. C.

USS Akron (ZRS-4) was a helium-filled rigid airship of the United States Navy that was lost in a weather-related accident off the New Jersey coast early on April 4, 1933, killing 73 of the 76 crew and passengers on board. During its accident-prone 18-month term of service, she also served as a flying aircraft carrier for launching F9C Sparrowhawk biplane fighters.

At 785 ft (239 m) long, 20 ft (6.1 m) shorter than the German commercial airship Hindenburg, Akron and her sister Macon were among the largest flying objects in the world.

On the evening of April 3, 1933, Akron cast off from the mooring mast to operate along the coast of New England, assisting in the calibration of radio direction finder stations.

Akron soon encountered severe weather, which did not improve when the airship passed over Barnegat Light, New Jersey at 10:00 pm as wind gusts of terrific force struck its massive airframe. The airship was being flown into an area of lower barometric pressure than at take-off, which caused the actual altitude flown to be lower than that indicated in the control gondola. Around 12:30 am on April 4, Akron was caught by an updraft, followed almost immediately by a downdraft. Commander McCord—the captain—ordered full speed ahead, ballast dropped.

imageThis caused the nose to rise and the tail to rotate down. Akron‘s descent was only temporarily halted, whereupon downdrafts forced the airship down farther. Wiley activated the 18 “howlers” of the ship’s telephone system, a signal to landing stations. At this point, Akron was nose up, between 12 and 25°. The Engineering Officer called out “800 feet” (240 m), which was followed by a “gust” of intense violence.

ZRS4 rapidly broke up and sank in the stormy Atlantic. The crew of the nearby German motorship Phoebus saw lights descending toward the ocean at about 12:23 and altered course to starboard to investigate, believing they were witnessing a plane crash. At 12:55, an unconscious Commander Wiley was pulled from the water while the ship’s boat picked up three more men. The Navy blimp J-3—sent out to join the search—also crashed, with the loss of two men.

Akron‘s loss spelled the beginning of the end for the rigid airship in the US Navy, especially since one of its leading proponents, Rear Admiral Moffett, was killed with 72 other men.

USS Akron (ZRS-4) on wikipedia

inset above rt:
Part of the frame of the Akron recovered off the New Jersey coast where it crashed. May 10, 1933 – New York Times (article on National Underwater and Marine Agency)

Flightdeck Friday – Gasbags and Hookers – USNI; Crash of the Akron

Consolidated N2Y-1 (BuNo A8604) on the hook of the U.S. Navy airship USS Akron (ZRS-4) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey (USA), on 4 May 1932.


View of US Navy airship USS Akron moored at Sunnyvale, California in May 1932

see also: USS Akron skeleton

article: Is The Military Dirigible Doomed? (May, 1935)

article: Gasless DIRIGIBLE for Safe Air Travel (Apr, 1932)
on Modern Mechanix

VIDEO: Navy Dirigible Akron Disaster 1933 Universal Newsreel

“People Take Warning,
Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs”

with an introduction by Tom Waits 

imageIf there’s a more mournful and sad sound than the violin introduction to the song “Crash Of Akron” I’d like to hear it. Bob Miller’s “Crash Of Akron” is taken from People Take Warning on Tompkins Square. This 3 disc set of “Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs” contains a 48 page booklet with an introduction by Tom Waits.

The Akron was a rigid helium filled airship like the Hindenburg. It crashed in 1933 killing 73 people on board. This historical song is of a kind that has vanished along with that ship. I commend Tompkins Square for compiling this impressive set.

You can buy it here.

see also: Christian Kiefer and Jefferson Pitcher’s collaboration
“To All The Dead Sailors” (Camera Obscura, Aug. 29)


United States Navy airship landing on an aircraft carrier during World War II
Mighty Airships Of The 20th Century


M class airship of which 4 were built for the US Navy with serials 48239/48242. They were also identified as M-1/4. The first flight was in October 1943 and they were later re-designated as ZPN and again in 1954 as ZPG-1 as an aircraft. 48239/48242

It was a significantly larger airship. Operations of K-ships in tropical regions had shown a need for a blimp with greater volume to offset the loss of lift due to high ambient temperatures. (2,157 × 1,373 pixels)

Maximum speed: 80 mph (128 km/h) — Endurance: 50 hours 30 min
1 × .50 M2 machine gun — 8 × 350 lb (159 kg) Mark 47 depth charges


Macon flying over NYC
1800 × 1328


The Navy’s airship aircraft carrier Macon sat docked in Hangar One at Moffett Field, Calif., back during the airship years. Preservationists are worried that Hangar One could be stripped of its toxic outer skin and left only as a metal frame

The Navy’s naked hangar on Military Times – 3000 × 2362

Navy Airship MACON and Crew in Hanger –

On February 12, 1935, returning to Sunnyvale from fleet maneuvers, Macon ran into a storm off Point Sur, California. During the storm, she was caught in a wind shear which caused structural failure of the unstrengthened ring (17.5) to which the upper tailfin was attached. The fin failed to the side and was carried away. Pieces of structure punctured the rear gas cells and caused gas leakage.

Acting rapidly and on fragmentary information an immediate and massive discharge of ballast was ordered. Control was lost and, tail heavy and with engines running full speed ahead, Macon rose past the pressure height and kept going until enough helium was vented to cancel the lift.

It took her 20 minutes to descend from 4,850 ft (1,480 m) and, settling gently into the sea, Macon sank off Monterey Bay. Only two crewmembers died from her complement of 76, thanks to the warm conditions and the introduction of life jackets and inflatable rafts after the Akron tragedy.

Macon, having completed 50 flights from her commissioning date, was stricken from the Navy list on February 26, 1935. Subsequent airships for Navy use were of a nonrigid design.

more about USS Macon (ZRS-5) on wikipedia

article: Sound Truck HelpsS Land Airship (Sep, 1933)


Port wing of one of four Curtiss Sparrowhawk F9C-2 biplanes recorded at the USS Macon site – High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Wreck of Airship USS Macon Added to National Register of Historic Places

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the loss of the U.S. Navy airship USS Macon, NOAA today announced that the wreck site on the seafloor within Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.


Two crew members of the US Navy Airship Squadron 24 loading 325 pound
aircraft Mk 17 depth charge (bomb) on to their K-28 airship

see also: Two U.S. Navy Airship Squadron 24 crew members steering their K-28 airship


U.S. Navy Airship Squadron 24 K-28 airships in their hangar

A hangar like this one could house a dozen airships at one time. When these aircraft took flight they were stronger than they appeared; only one was lost in action during the war.


Concept Drawing for Atomic Airship
(2208 x 1200)

What could possibly go wrong?

article: Why Don’t We Build An Atoms-For-Peace Dirigible (Mar, 1956)

If you gotta have more gasbags:

The Airship Heritage Trust

The Zeppelin museum in Friedrichshafen
Zeppelin Museum Gift Shop

Vickers Transoceanic Airship

Lighter Than Air: An illustrated history of balloons and airships
Air & Space Museum

List of airships of the United States Navy
on wikipedia

Airship group – Zeppelin group
– on Flickr –

List of airship accidents
on wikipedia

HMS Ark Royal sold for scrap by Ministry of Defence

HMS Ark Royal in PortsmouthAircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal is being sold for £3m for scrap metal by the Ministry of Defence to help tackle a multi-billion pound defence deficit.

The removal of the Royal Navy’s former flagship from service in 2011, five years early, was a “difficult but necessary decision”, the MoD has said.

Its sale follows bids to turn the ship into a London heliport, a dive site off Devon or other overseas facilities.

An announcement on its future will be made in Parliament on Monday.  —more


Neil Armstrong, Navy Man who stood on moon’s
Sea of Tranquility, to be buried at sea


1945 … returning troops – S.S. America
on x-ray delta one
– (3000 x 2035) –
see also: Zepp again! x ray delta one – statue of liberty postcard

*This week’s mystery music video*

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