Biplane Launch From Airship USS Akron (ZRS-4)

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National Archives Identifier: 28558
US Navy Dirigible Akron in flight (1930s). Int, dirigible, old-type biplane being hoisted aboard while in flight. AVs, biplane suspended under dirigible. Plane is dropped and flies off. Int, control room. Sailor steering the airship. MCU, mail bags. Int, naval officers eating at table. Men walking along catwalk of dirigible.

USS Akron (ZRS-4) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
USS Akron (ZRS-4) was a helium-filled rigid airship of the United States Navy that was lost in a weather-related accident off the New Jersey coast early on April 4, 1933, killing 73 of the 76 crew and passengers on board. During its accident-prone 18-month term of service, she also served as a flying aircraft carrier for launching F9C Sparrowhawk biplane fighters.
At 785 ft (239 m) long, 20 ft (6.1 m) shorter than the German commercial airship Hindenburg, Akron and her sister Macon were among the largest flying objects in the world. Although the Hindenburg was longer, it was filled with hydrogen, so the two U.S. airships still hold the world record for helium-filled airships.

Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Sparrowhawk is an example of a parasite fighter, a small airplane designed to be deployed from a larger aircraft such as an airship or bomber. At 20 ft (6.1 m) long and with only a 25 ft (7.6 m) wingspan, the Sparrowhawk was ideal for service in the fighter complement of large rigid-framed airships because of its small size. Although the Sparrowhawk was armed, its primary duty was reconnaissance, and it provided the airships it served with a much wider search area. Akron was reported to have a complement of three Sparrowhawks, while Macon was discovered at its underwater resting place with four in its hangar.


💬 Comments
Author

Reading your posts with much had the honor of knowing some of the commissioned officers and petty officers who served in the USN's LTA fleet of the 1930's-1960's. I also had the honor and privilege to have a conversation with VADM Charles Rosendahl about the aerodynamic principles of rigid airships. With new materials and technology, we are already seeing the beginning of a commercial and military rebirth of these practical and important "skyships". Thank you for your posts.

Author — machia0705

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How Crimson Skies almost got started... ;-) Thank you for sharing these rare videos.

Author — Zemplin Castellan

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Dr. Karl Arnstein was a brilliant structural engineer both in the fields of civil and in aeronautical engineering. His analytical methods to test stresses on materials were groundbreaking. His contribution to the aviation world at Goodyear-Zeppelin, Goodyear and at Bell Aerospace was tremendous. You may want to pick up his book "When Giants Roamed the Skies", great read..

Author — machia0705

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Hi Gary!! The USS Akron/Macon had heat pumped from the engine rooms, so they were fairly "toasty" while inside the hull. Since the ship rarely (if ever) went over 6, 000 feet, they never needed any breathing apparatus. The ceiling for the ship was really 4, 500 feet under normal operations, and regularly went up to 3, 000 feet during scouting missions.

Author — Francisco Carvallo

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I was in the US Navy and stationed aboard two "regular" warships.  That being said, I love the concept but I doubt I would get much sleep, seeing that about a dozen things could go wrong at any time,   anything from  enemy action to heavy winds to...

Author — Stephen Thor

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I've been to the world's largest wooden hanger in Tillamook Oregon, the Navy used it for storing airships that patroled for Japanese submarines!
They were airships that were built after the Akron though. The hangar would hold two airships in the forties!
Love the Curtis sparrow hawk, Glenn Curtiss was known as the fastest man alive!

Author — CIVIL DEFENSE: P.S.A.

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@Whammytap Sorry, double post. Anyway, to answer your questions, yes, there was considerable change in weight, but the ships had vectorable propellers- eight of them. Also, there were few weight and trim issues unless they were intending to land soon. Second, they used to leak a lot more than they do now- we have about 3% loss per year, they had about 12%. But it varies wildly.

Author — Jjames763

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Haha!! Thanks!! Helium is back to being expensive, until they figure how to mine it from space, I guess! Please check my channel to get an idea of the size of these ships! I also have pictures of them on deviant art. Thanks for commenting!

Author — Francisco Carvallo

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He was! I had the pleasure of reading the book..it was loaned to me by one of the docents at the Moffett Field Museum..I never knew that Dr. Arnstein was partially deaf, and that his wife was completely deaf! That is why he often gave the impression of being aloof and arrogant, when in reality he was a very humble, loving man that once he made you a friend, it was for life! Thank you for your comment!

Author — Francisco Carvallo

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Wow! And to think the National Helium Reserve was, until quite recently, right here in Kansas, where I live! I would give almost anything to have seen these ships while they were still around. What skill it must have taken to pilot one. I'm sure the Akron and Macon were simply too gargantuan for me to have any real appreciation of without having seen them. News article today: 80th anniversary of the Akron's crash!

Author — Whammytap

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Fascinating, thank you. Imagine what 1 of these could have done to close the U-boat gap in the Atlantic? 41-43

Author — Tiberius Maximus

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Thanks for answering! So the propellors would be exerting downward force as the planes disengaged, to keep the airship from bobbing up. I have read about systems in modern airship design that compress the envelope's bouyant gas into tanks and release it as needed to help control altitude and attitude, too. How cool! I wish that someone would build more airships and WIG aircraft today.

Author — Whammytap

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Thank you! I never had the honor of speaking to any of the "Old Airship" men from the Golden Age of aviation! I'm highly envious, in a good way, mind you! I was but 7 years old when Dr. Karl Arnstein passed way...

Author — Francisco Carvallo

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Another thing I have wondered is whether the crews of the airships drew hazardous duty pay. The fatality rate was extremely high, overall. I suspect the crew were volunteers, too, just as the submarines during WWII were. Although they must have known that they were pretty much tempting fate, I don't think there was any more exciting duty, anywhere. I think it's very sad that the problems with the airships were not able to be worked out, before the loss of life and resources became so unacceptable that they had to be abandoned.

Author — noelani Lamb

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To answer your question, Yes. What the airships did was simply use up/down angles of flying to compensate for this, since it would take a few hours to recoup the weight lost back as water through their condensers. If the ship was heavy, fo example, they would navigate with a slight angle up attitude (2-3 degrees for example, ) the opposite would be true if it was "light, " they would point the nose slightly down and let the engines push the ship slightly down while moving through the air.

Author — Francisco Carvallo

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The truly first EWS of the age. They learned the skills of advanced aerial scouting and long range observation on ZRS-4 Akron and perfected it into a science and art aboard ZRS-5 Macon. Wiley knew how to use the ship to it's fullest advantage to a skeptical Navy Board and even performed some neat tricks like surprising the President on a ship by appearing out of nowhere, completely undetected. Nice way to get the point across to fund the Navy LTA program.

Author — divisioneight

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1910: we have airship with plane!~
2021: where is airship with plane?

Author — Specific Normal Person

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Damn wish I was alive back in the good ol days

Author — Nathan Foskett

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Macon could hold 5 sparrowhawks but chose to only carry 4 most times. And why might you ask? Think maintenance.

Author — Copainization

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Question: Airships are susceptible to changes in their weight--the Akron and Macon even employed water vapor condensers to compensate for the weight lost as fuel was consumed. Wouldn't engaging/disengaging something as heavy as an airplane, then, cause sudden and marked shifts in altitude? Question: Did helium leak out of the envelopes of these ships? I should think there would always be some loss, as there is in helium balloons. If so, at what rate? If not, why not? Thanks, great video!

Author — Whammytap