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In Requiem: Hindenburg

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bauplan_small 1937___zeppelin___die_hindenburg_uber_new_york_9740propertyzoom Today marks the anniversary of the demise of one of the greatest flight concepts of all time: lighter than air travel. For centuries people were traveling via balloon and later, by airship. It was quiet, it was spacious, it was regal and inspiring. Floating above cities, traffic, and entire oceans it paved the way for international air travel, airmail, shipping and the idea of being an international jetsetter. Until the Hindenburg disaster, the plans for airships were huge, new flight paths were being discussed, larger and safer designs were drafted and nations around the world were rushing to catch up to the Germans in this field of supremacy.


hindenburg-relative-size de8c819dc6 The Hindenburg was the largest passenger aircraft of its’ day, larger than a jumbo jet aircraft of today and almost as large as the Titanic. Because of large volume of air needing displacement (airships rise by displacement of air with lighter weight gases), the craft could only move about 120 people, of which usually half were crew. Thus the true passenger aircrafts were expensive to ride in and only the very wealthy or powerful was given the chance of riding them (unless you worked in one). Over time, like with all capitalist ventures, the price of the tickets would have fallen as the technology improved allowing the middle classes to have enjoyed this method of travel. That was before the accident seen and heard by one reporter who managed to kill the industry.

images hindenburg-pax-cabin.JPG.500x400 On May 6th 1937, the Hindenburg was landing at its’ sister hangar in Lakehurst, New Jersey when a fire broke out above the rear tail section, engulfing the ship in a blaze that ignited the hydrogen lifting gas inside. In less then one minute, the aircraft fell to the ground, killing 13 passengers and 22 crewmembers (a small amount given that 36 passengers and 61 crew were on board). This wasn’t the Hindenburg’s maiden voyage, nor its’ second. In fact the craft flew 17 times prior to this tragedy and proved itself worthy of reconsideration. People immediately blamed the hydrogen inside the ship as the cause of the fire. This I disagree with as the entire exterior of the ship was covered in aluminum dust, iron oxide and cellulose nitrate (materials that I have used in the past to make thermite). The skin was designed to make it waterproof and lightweight but ended up carrying a charge (and potential sparks ) on its’ skin that needed frequent discharging. Over time this risk would have increased. Heck even the bags used to contain the lifting hydrogen gas was either silk and petroleum or oil impregnation or animal skins/bladders with petroleum or oil  impregnation. It was only a matter of time before the ship would have an accident leading to its’ demise. Sadly this is what always happens with early technologies and people immediately blamed hydrogen for it. Think for a moment: this ship had a place where you could smoke inside the airship… within feet of the gases, and a kitchen, yet did not explode from any accident onboard! Certainly something to think about the next time you consider the tuna can of air flight in the modern world.

A true injustice it was for the world to scrap a great idea before it could reach maturity! Imagine what would the world be like it people abandoned air conditioning because of the chemicals inside being deadly? Or imagine what life would be like if Edison and Westinghouse both agreed that electricity was too dangerous to use safely? Clearly we would be in the dark ages and a clan of stupid apes scratching in the dark for a place to sit.

I think it is time we took another serious look at a truly marvelous concept: quiet, peaceful and touristy air travel with leg room, cabins, and great service!


Written by Josecito

May 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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