The airship is lighter than an aircraft with an engine that moves through the air. The main body of a typical airship is a huge cigar shaped balloon filled with a lighter than air gas. This air, normally hydrogen, raises the craft and keeps it afloat.
Airships were introduced in the 1800s as the first flying machine capable of prolonged flight and of being steered. A great amount of innovation in this area took place in Europe, especially in Italy and Germany. The airplane was American all the way.
Starting around World War I, airships were used to carry passengers across the Atlantic. This service reached its height in the 1930s, but a series of disastrous crashes and the popularity and the long range capability of the airplane brought airship passenger service to an end.
One such disaster was that of the Hindenburg. This huge airship operated by the Germans was supposed to be the elite. It made several trips to America at a speed of 78 miles per hour. But at midday on May 6, 1937 while approaching its docking in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the Hindenburg exploded. Of the 97 people on board, 35 were killed. The hydrogen gas lead to the explosion.
The mere existence of a Hindenburg landing had radio people on the spot. At our home we were gathered around the radio listening to the announcer narrate the event when suddenly he started shouting about the explosion, and people being on fire.
Recently four of us men were dining together at noon. I introduced the “Hindenburg” subject. Jack Lauf said he lived in Danbury and witnessed this flight before the crash. Neil Currie said he still has an envelope mailed to him with the Hindenburg stamp.
Today the airship, now called “The Blimp” is used for advertising purposes.
David T. Daniel
Southbury, CT © 2016