12.02.

1935: Crash of the “Flying Aircraft Carrier” – The Huge Zeppelin USS Macon

1935: Crash of the “Flying Aircraft Carrier” – The Huge Zeppelin USS Macon
Photo Credit To http://www.blimpinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/80-cf-4163-15-2560w.jpg

The USS Macon was especially interesting for being a kind of “flying aircraft carrier”. Namely, it could carry five Curtiss F9C fighter aircraft. These were one-man biplanes stored in a hangar within the body of the zeppelin.

 

The largest American zeppelin – the USS Macon – crashed on this day in 1935. That airship belonged to a class of the largest helium-filled aircraft in world history in general. The USS Macon was only around 2.5% shorter than the Hindenburg, but was designed for war. It was especially interesting for being a kind of “flying aircraft carrier”. Namely, it could carry five Curtiss F9C fighter aircraft. These were one-man biplanes stored in a hangar within the body of the zeppelin. When they were to fly alone, they were lowered into a hanging position below the zeppelin, and then released to fly freely.

 

The tragedy that befell the USS Macon was significantly different from the Hindenburg fire, which occurred more than two years later. Namely, the USS Macon wasn’t filled with explosive hydrogen, and thus couldn’t be set alight in that manner. However, on this day the USS Macon’s tail structure started to break up, which led to the release of helium. The crew reacted by releasing a large amount of ballast, which was actually a very bad move. Namely, the airship then started to sharply ascend, and control over its direction of movement was lost. The engines moved the aircraft upwards, higher and higher (the USS Macon had as many as eight Maybach engines made in Germany, each of whom possessed 12 cylinders and 560 hp). The USS Macon thus reached an altitude of 1,480 meters, which forced the crew to release a large amount of helium (to prevent ruptures due to the great differences in air pressure between the air inside and outside the airship). After releasing the helium, USS Macon slowly fell into the Pacific Ocean. It sank to a depth of 460 meters, near the coast of California. The wreck can still be found there, and it is protected as a historical monument. Two crew members died in the crash, and 74 were saved – thankfully, the sea was warm and they had both lifebelts and lifeboats.

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