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Thu Apr 4, 2019, 05:32 AM

86 Years Ago Today; Airship USS Akron Destroyed in Atlantic Storm



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Akron_(ZRS-4)

USS Akron (ZRS-4) was a helium-filled rigid airship of the U.S. Navy which operated between September 1931 and April 1933. She was the world's first purpose-built flying aircraft carrier, carrying F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes which could be launched and recovered while she was in flight. With an overall length of 785 ft (239 m), the Akron and her sister ship the Macon were among the largest flying objects ever built. Although the LZ129 Hindenburg and the LZ130 Graf Zeppelin II were some 18 ft (5.5 m) longer and slightly more voluminous, the two German airships were filled with hydrogen, so the US Navy craft still hold the world record for helium-filled airships.

The Akron was destroyed in a thunderstorm off the coast of New Jersey on the morning of 4 April 1933, killing 73 of the 76 crewmen and passengers. This accident involved the greatest loss of life in any airship crash.

<snip>

Loss
On the evening of 3 April 1933, the Akron cast off from the mooring mast to operate along the coast of New England, assisting in the calibration of radio direction finder stations. Rear Admiral Moffett was again on board along with his aide, Commander Henry Barton Cecil, Commander Fred T. Berry, the commanding officer of NAS Lakehurst, and Lieutenant Colonel Alfred F. Masury, U.S. Army Reserve, a guest of the admiral, the vice-president of Mack Trucks, and a strong proponent of the potential civilian uses of rigid airships.

The 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 her 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 a.m. on 4 April, the Akron was caught by an updraft, followed almost immediately by a downdraft. Commander McCord, the captain, ordered full speed ahead, ballast dropped. The executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Herbert V. Wiley, handled the ballast and emptied the bow emergency ballast. Coupled with the elevator man holding the nose up, this caused the nose to rise and the tail to rotate down. The descent of the Akron was only temporarily halted, before 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, the Akron was nose up, between 12 degrees and 25 degrees.

The engineering officer called out "800 feet" (240 m), which was followed by a "gust" of intense violence. The steersman reported no response to his wheel as the lower rudder cables had been torn away. While the control gondola was still hundreds of feet high, the lower fin of Akron had struck the water and was torn off.

The Akron broke up rapidly and sank in the stormy Atlantic. The crew of the nearby German merchant ship Phoebus saw lights descending toward the ocean at about 12:23 a.m. and altered course to starboard to investigate, with her captain believing that he was witnessing an airplane crash. At 12:55 a.m., the unconscious Commander Wiley was pulled from the water while the ship's boat picked up three more men: Chief Radioman Robert W. Copeland, Boatswain's Mate Second Class Richard E. Deal, and Aviation Metalsmith Second Class Moody E. Erwin. Despite artificial respiration, Copeland never regained consciousness, and he died aboard the Phoebus.

Although the German sailors spotted four or five other men in the water, they did not know their ship had chanced upon the crash of the Akron until Lt. Commander Wiley regained consciousness half an hour after being rescued. The crew of the Phoebus combed the ocean in boats for over five hours in a fruitless search for more survivors. The Navy blimp J-3—sent out to join the search—also crashed, with the loss of two men.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Tucker—the first American vessel on the scene—arrived at 6:00 a.m., taking the airship's survivors and the body of Copeland on board. Among the other ships combing the area for survivors were the heavy cruiser Portland, the destroyer Cole, the Coast Guard cutter Mojave, and the Coast Guard destroyers McDougal and Hunt, as well as two Coast Guard aircraft. The fishing vessel Grace F from Gloucester, Massachusetts, also assisted in the search, using her seining gear in an effort to recover bodies.

Most casualties had been caused by drowning and hypothermia, since the crew had not been issued life jackets, and there had not been time to deploy the single life raft. The accident left 73 dead, and only three survivors. Wiley, standing next to the two other survivors, gave a brief account on 6 April.

Aftermath of loss
Akron's loss spelled the beginning of the end for the rigid airship in the US Navy, especially since one of her leading proponents, Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, was among the dead. President Roosevelt said, "The loss of the Akron with her crew of gallant officers and men is a national disaster. I grieve with the Nation and especially with the wives and families of the men who were lost. Ships can be replaced, but the Nation can ill afford to lose such men as Rear Admiral William A. Moffett and his shipmates who died with him upholding to the end the finest traditions of the United States Navy." The loss of the Akron was the largest loss of life in any airship crash.

The USS Macon and other airships received life jackets to avert a repetition of this tragedy. When Macon was damaged in a storm in 1935 and subsequently sank after landing in the sea, 70 of the 72 crew were saved.

The songwriter Bob Miller wrote and recorded a song, "The Crash of the Akron", within one day of the disaster.

</snip>


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Arrow 13 replies Author Time Post
Reply 86 Years Ago Today; Airship USS Akron Destroyed in Atlantic Storm (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Apr 4 OP
malaise Apr 4 #1
Dennis Donovan Apr 4 #2
malaise Apr 4 #3
Dennis Donovan Apr 4 #4
malaise Apr 4 #5
marble falls Apr 4 #7
malaise Apr 4 #9
Sherman A1 Apr 4 #6
Dennis Donovan Apr 4 #10
ProfessorGAC Apr 4 #8
EX500rider Apr 4 #11
Dennis Donovan Apr 4 #12
EX500rider Apr 4 #13

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 05:45 AM

1. Wow

Didn't know about this

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Response to malaise (Reply #1)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 05:50 AM

2. A pretty remarkable aircraft - slightly smaller than the Hindenburg...

...but filled with non-flammable helium. Sadly, that didn't ultimately save her, though.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #2)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 06:01 AM

3. It was huge

for sure. I often try to imagine how people react when they know their aircraft is going down.

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Response to malaise (Reply #3)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 06:05 AM

4. I hope NOT like this:



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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #4)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 06:09 AM

5. ROFL

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Response to malaise (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 07:45 AM

7. More:


The Akron under construction in Akron, Ohio.



All about the hanger it was built in:

https://democraticunderground.com/10181203568

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Response to marble falls (Reply #7)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 09:15 AM

9. Thanks

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 07:21 AM

6. The Akron and Shenandoah Crews

Along with the other pioneers of aviation all deserve a for their courage in leading the way.

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Response to Sherman A1 (Reply #6)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 04:55 PM

10. Both wrecked with great loss of life...

Airship pioneers Zachary Landsdowne and Admiral William Moffett were both killed in ZR-1 Shenandoah and ZR-4 Akron, respectively.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 08:11 AM

8. A Victim Of The Inherent Flaw In LTA Flight

Massive surface area with limited mass make a terrible combination in heavy winds.
Today, at sporting events, the commercial camera blimps have a 25 knot limit.
If a game or golf tournament is played in higher winds, we don't see blimp shots.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 05:34 PM

11. That whole carrying parasitic fighter planes must have made for fun landings..



Microsoft actually had a pretty fun PC video game built around that premise with "Crimson Skies" in 2000.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimson_Skies_(video_game)

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Response to EX500rider (Reply #11)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 05:50 PM

12. That was also around the time Microsoft introduced CFS1?

IIRC, there was a mod available that gave you a flyable Akron/Macon and a flyable Sparrowhawk! Maybe it was FS2002, but, nonetheless, very cool stuff!

Interestingly enough, the Air Force experimented with parasite fighters slung under B-36 Peacemakers in the 1950's:

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #12)

Thu Apr 4, 2019, 06:00 PM

13. About a year or 2 after CFS1 which was released the end of '98.

I still own both games but don't currently have a legacy system to play them.

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