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Zeppelin

LTA USA
Airships of the U.S. Navy


ZRS5 Macon over NYCHistorical Note

In the era between World Wars I and II, the United States Navy undertook a project to test and integrate airships into the operational military fleet. Of the two main types, rigids and non-rigids, it was the former that garnered the lion's share of attention in public, private, and political sectors.

Rigids

The rigids, fueled by the enormous popularity of the commercial Zeppelins, were the largest craft to sail the sky. These giants -- over three times longer than a jumbo jet -- inspired a sense of awe in those who saw them. The U.S. Navy flew four of these giant dirigibles. They were some of the best airships ever built, including the only practicable aircraft carriers in the world.

The Z designation applied to ALL USN lighter-than-air craft. K-ships were ZNPKs for instance, the metalclad was ZMC-2, etc.

Above photo of ZRS5 Macon over NYC, 9 October 1933, courtesy of the Naval Institute.

Designation

Name

Manufacturer

Notes

ZR1

USS Shenandoah

US Navy

ZR2

R-38

R.A.W. Bedford

  • British R-38
  • Crashed in England before delivery to USN

ZR3

USS Los Angeles

Luftschiffbau Zeppelin

  • Longest-lived USN rigid. It was disassembled.

ZRS4

USS Akron

Goodyear-Zeppelin

  • Christened: 8 August 1931
  • First flight: 25 September 1931
  • Stricken: 30 April 1933
  • Total flights: 73
  • Total flight hours: 1,695.8

ZRS5

USS Macon

Goodyear-Zeppelin

  • Christened: 11 March 1933
  • First flight: 21 April 1933
  • Stricken: 26 February 1935
  • Total flights: 54
  • Total flight hours: 1,798.2
  • Total Gas Volume: 6,850,000 cu ft
  • Length: 785 ft
  • Max Hull Diameter: 132.9 ft
  • Max Speed: 75.6 knots (83 mph)

USN gondola

Trapeze

FPC SPARROWHAWK painting

ZRS4/5 carried five F9Cs airplanes. "The Men on the Flying Trapeze" were few in number. Their contribution to extending the scouting range and promoting the concept of "the flying carrier" was significant.

Paint scheme: Fuselage and tail unit Navy grey. Wings silver, upper surface of top wing chrome yellow. Fuselage band, wing chevron, cowling and engine plate and spats, white.

A Curtis F9C, piloted by Lt. D. Ward Harrigan,
hooks on to the USS Macon's trapeze mechanism.

F9C Sparrowhawk websites:

Information on F9C Sparrowhawks may be found in these books:

Peter M. Bowers: Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947
Naval Institute Press - 1987

William T. Larkins: US Navy Aircraft, 1921-1941
Orion Books - 1988

Gordon Swanborough & Peter M. Bowers: United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911
Naval Institute Press - 1990

John Wegg: General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors
Naval Institute Press - 1990

Hybrid

ZMC-2

Metalclad

Detroit Aircraft Company

  • Launched: 1929

Non-Rigids

K47 painting / Cortney Skinner Illustrations - 32 Churchill Ave. Arlington, MA. 02174

The non-rigids, relatively small compared to their rigid couisins, were the lta workhorse platforms of the US Navy. The first was built in 1917 and the last in 1958. They saw use into the 1960s.

During WWII, the US Navy had a fleet of over 200 blimps. This figure does not include the numerous barrage balloons employed in protecting troops as they swarmed ashore strategic beach heads. Blimps were routinely used in escourting convoys. Their long-range detection and reporting of submarines is credited with the safe passage of Allied ships.

Designation

Manufacturer

Notes

A

Connecticut Aircraft Company

B

Goodyear (9)
Goodrich (5)
Connecticut (2)

C

Goodyear/Goodrich

D

Goodyear

E

Goodyear

F

G

H

J

K

Goodyear

During World War II K-ships patrolled the shipping lanes off the coasts of North and South America and escorted 89,000 merchant vessels without the loss of a single ship.

L    

ZP2K

ZPG

ZRS4 AkronNaval Air Stations

 
This site was created, written and is maintained by John Dziadecki 1995-2014. Images and quotes that are not the author's remain in the copyright of the originator. The information contained in this website is for educational purposes only. Additions and corrections are welcomed! Please send comments, suggestions and possible links to John.Dziadecki@colorado.edu. Last update: 18 February 2003