USN LTA at Key West - Naval Airship Association

USN LTA at Key West - Naval Airship Association
No. 79
Fall 2008
(Above) Artist Conception of proposed hybrid heavy-lift airship from Boeing and Skyhook.
(Below) Tom Cuthbert’s photo showing refueling ops in Cuba mid-1950’s.
USN LTA at Key West
(Above) Zeppelin NT 04 at ground level. Copyright ZLT/Airship Ventures.
(Below) The flying helmet of Altitude Pilot James Franklin Griffin. Joe Long photo.
(Above) Mid 1950’s operations with CVE’s utilized the hose refueling method. Photo Tom Cuthbert
(Below) Artist’s concept of Lockheed-Martin’s High Altitude Airship.
ISSUE # 79
FALL 2008
President’s Message
Treasurer’s Strongbox Membership Committee
Pigeon Cote Pushing The Envelope
Cover Story
Boeing Announcement
High Altitude Airship Shore Establishments
100th Anniversary
European Report
LTA Croix de Guerre USN LTA France WWI
Media Watch Short Lines
Black Blimp
Ready Room Lighter Side
Above: Filming “This Man’s Navy” at
NAS Moffett Field, California, 1944.
The Naval Airship Association
President - Herman G. Spahr
1032 N. 21st St.
Lafayette, IN 47904-2217
Tel: 765-447-3676
e-mail: [email protected]
Vice President – C. C. Moore
141 A Azalea Dr.
Whiting, NJ 08759-2950
Tel: 732-849-4478
Secretary - Treasurer - Peter F. Brouwer
1950 S.W. Cycle St. - Port St. Lucie, FL
34953-1778 Tel: 772-871-9379
Email: [email protected]
NAMF Liaison - Mort Eckhouse
Email: [email protected]
NMNA Liaison – Joe Hajcak
Email: [email protected]
Webmaster - Michael Vinnarick
Email: [email protected]
Technical Committee Chair
Norman Mayer
Email: [email protected]
Small Stores - George W. Allen
Email: [email protected]
On the Cover of TNB #79: US Navy and Coast Guard try
out an airship to work border patrol from Key West. Handlers
from Airship Management Services race toward Skyship 600
blimp as it prepares to touch down, arriving for six weeks
of marine surveillance. Oddly enough the press reported
surface units capturing a drug smuggling submarine at sea
elsewhere, releasing this photo:
Who knows, someone in today’s Chain of Command might
read this magazine and realize LTA has been in ASW before…
why not again?
All material contained in this newsletter represents the
views of its authors and does not necessarily represent
the official position of the Naval Airship Association, Inc.,
nor its officers or members.
R. G. Van Treuren, [email protected]
Box 700, Edgewater FL 32132-0700
On the upswing, Boeing’s announcement to build a verticallift airship came first through longtime Canadian LTA
advocate (and member) Dr. Barry Prentice. Read all about it
on page 12. Likewise the Navy/Coast Guard joint operations
of a Skyship 600 leased from Airship Management is as
great a newsbyte as the Navy taking its own ABC A-170 out
of caretaker status. Yet we’ve also been blessed with a very
wide range of historical pieces this issue, enjoy! Also, by the
time you read this we hope to have Jeffrey Cook’s study
of rigid airships’ fin design – emphasizing the ZRS program
– recreated.
You can’t imagine the roller coaster ride that began with
Boeing’s announcement - I was actually on my way to
Chicago the next day - followed shortly by a phone call
from merry old England. Our webmaster Mike Vinnarick
had dutifully forwarded a routine request for information
and I followed up by e-mail, prompting the phone call. It
was another TV crew doing a show, but this time they didn’t
just want us to work for nothing finding free footage of the
Hindenburg exploding to show hydrogen fireballs forming,
as so often seems the case (see Media Watch). This Brit
was different – he is doing a show on the U-boat war in the
What to do, what to do: the debate continues. If airships
have no future when helium passes $9, $10, $11 (or name
your price), then why bother to design new airships? If we
all begrudgingly accept that we will have to use hydrogen
“someday,” then why not use it today, at least as fuel, since it
has three times the energy (by weight) than gasoline? What
do we gain, exactly, by postponing the inevitable?
Tony’s crew had interviewed a veteran of the U-615, a sub
sunk by US forces. In my effort to chronicle previously
obscured or classified combats between airships and subs,
I’d found two books that credited ZP-51’s K-68 as being
the key to the sub’s destruction. The orbiting blimp allowed
bomber airplanes to hone in on the U-615 and attack, rather
than lose it again as they had in previous encounters. The
two references did not raise any eyebrows in our maintainstatus-quo activist members. Recently, member and U-boat
researcher extraordinaire CAPT Jerry Mason uncovered
and translated the German Command report for the action
which brags that while the submarine was sunk, they took a
whole bunch of airplanes and even an airship with them. (K68 was then out of fuel and ditched on an island, but no one
was lost.) Even that would fail to inspire a new investigation
that maybe, just maybe, airships had more combat credentials
than history lets on.
Happily one group in the AIAA LTA Tech Committee is
doing something about it. See page 25 for some preliminary
ideas about gathering sponsors for the “Z Prize.” Other
disciplines not beating themselves up about using hydrogen
fuel are making great strides. In the case of hypersonic
research, it’s the only realistic way. The Italian team (left,
the H2 tank; center, the DSV test vehicle; right, going aloft)
is even LTA minded. Instead of spending millions on a fancy
launch rocket, they loft their hydrogen-powered hypersonic
test vehicle via balloon and let gravity do the hard work. The
next test is scheduled for about the time you read this, in
October 2008. A modern airship operation would not worry
Tony had called because the U-615 vet had told of an airship
in the distance that kept allowing airplanes to find them. Not
knowing how many people (even in NAA!) keep insisting
only one airship ever saw a submarine, Tony called and told
of his interview.
Now we’re on, I thought. NAA member William Voda was
K-68’s ordinance man that fateful day. I’d arranged for Bill
to tape with another Brit crew an interview at the Denver
Reunion. That show was never finished, but I’d checked in
with Bill every so often to tell him we were still trying. Now
at last we’d be able to make good – we’d have vets from both
sides of the action! Let ‘em try to deny that! Not seeing Bill
in the new roster, I asked our man in Mass., Fred Morin, to
check on Bill Voda.
about the helium shipment’s whereabouts or what the price
of av-gas was rising to. Both the airship’s lift its fuel would
be manufactured locally, anywhere there is sunlight and
water, allowing competitively priced operations independent
of OPEC or the Bureau of Mines. What are we waiting for,
foreigners to beat us to it… again? Ω
Bill Voda had died in 2006.
The status-quo crowd will win this battle, because they have
a powerful ally: The Grim Reaper. Book or no book, I can’t
fight both forever.
- R G Van Treuren
it too demanding of their time and effort. Their duties can
be performed from a living room chair with the use of a
I have been attempting to find a Nominating Committee
to replace me at the end of my two-year term. It has been
difficult. Originally it was the feeling of your leadership
that the President would preferably be a qualified airship
commander or someone with vast experience in LTA.
Airship Commanders are quickly becoming a thing of the
past. However, there are many enlisted NAA members who
have served honorably and well in airship squadrons. They
have left the service and have enjoyed becoming successful
entrepreneurs. Our current Sec-Treasurer is a prime
I will continue my search and hopefully can report in our next
NOON BALLOON, those who have accepted appointment
to our Nominating Committee. Ω
- Herm Spar
Newsletter of the NAA
Volunteer Staff
In addition to demonstrating capable leadership qualities, a
primary consideration should be an avid interest in history
and continuation of the unique capabilities of airships. In our
changing world, women certainly should not be overlooked.
Our recently retired Secretary, Margaret Hinrichsen, is an
example of one who has served long and well.
Contributing Editors: NAA Members
Masthead Artwork: Bo Watwood
Editor: Richard G. Van Treuren
Publisher: David R. Smith
Members chosen for the Nominating Committee should be
people who know the capabilities of our members. They
will be performing a valuable service to our organization.
The position does not require a great deal of travel, nor is
Errata: In spite of the best efforts of your volunteer
newsletter team, software incompatibility between
Microsoft and Adobe products continue to insert artifacts
into our columns. Last issue’s Pigeon Cote featured a
letter from “Red” Layton which should have read, “I
was a LT(jg) and Admin Officer in ZP2 Detachment 6
at Key West when the squadron was re-designated as
ZX-11 (I designed the ZX-11 Patch). I was subsequently
transferred to ZX-11 Det 1 at Glynco, and reported
in there day of Lou’s crash. As I remember the story,
the blimp took off from Key West in very heavy, prehurricane weather and was flying on auto pilot when
they broke the rudder shaft in the cockpit. (This was
the first airship at Key West to have an auto pilot). They
returned to Key West and made a ‘no rudder’ landing
using differential power for control. As I recall, one of
the pilots was George Richards. After a long period
during which they repaired the rudder shaft, they took
off again with a new pilot crew and the same enlisted
crew (who had been up for hours on the flight and the
repair). The new pilot was CDR Ray Wiggins, ZX-11
Operations Officer. He did not want to use the auto pilot
because of the previous trouble, so he turned off the
inverter. Unfortunately, the inverter also powered the
gyro compass. After reporting that they were a couple
of miles at sea southeast of Jacksonville, they broke
out over NAS Cecil Field (west of Jacksonville). They
headed to Jacksonville where it was planned to re-fuel
the airship. LT Ben Leavitt of ZX-11 Det 1, with a
couple of petty officers and a Barrett Coupling, drove
to Jax, planning on using Station personnel to ground
handle the airship. However, CDR Wiggins reported
that he had enough gas to get to Glynco - and he almost
did. I don’t remember what happened to the car, but I
believe that it was recovered and then scrapped. There
was a lot of blimp cloth and I obtained a very large
piece. I built a rack on a luggage trailer and covered it
with the blimp cloth. It was still there when I sold the
trailer in Monterey about 1975. Ω
Tom Norris---Alexandria, VA
James V. Noone---Farmingdale, NY
William ‘Bill’ H. Garrett--- Battleground, IN
Richard F. Legg--- Keystone Heights, FL
James P. Flint --- Brandon, FL
Benjamin N. (Ben) Brigham--- Santa Monica, CA
Harry E. ‘Hy’ Blythe Jr. --- Paso Robles, CA
Richard R. Killion --- Moorpark, CA
George E. Wright Jr. --- West Covina, CA
Ivan Sampson, Stockport, Cheshire, England
Joe Long, Columbia, SC
Ethel Nepveux, Charleston SC
Keneth Klein, Wilmington, DE
Ω - Peter F. Brouwer, Sec-Tres.
Greetings from South Florida! I hope everyone had a great
It has been agreed upon that the office of the Secretary be
combined with the Treasurer’s position as it had been in the
past. In the future, the two combined offices will be known
as Secretary/ Treasurer of the N.A.A. Any correspondence,
membership questions, or obituaries will now be forwarded
to me.
Please note! Membership renewal will begin at the start of
November for the 2009 membership renewals. Letters will
be mailed out to only those who are due for renewal in 2009.
Please make sure that all pertinent information is kept current.
You may notify me of any changes and I will add them to our
database. This will make your correct information available
to others.
Spring Executive Council Meeting
Our roster/directory was recently mailed to you. We were
notified of the following changes after the printing of the
directory. Please make adjustments to your records.
At the meeting of the Executive Council of the NAA held
at the “Dome” in Edgewater, FL, on Wednesday, March
12th, the EC approved a written motion by Margaret
Hinrichsen, Secretary, with language that in essence
combines the offices of both Secretary and Treasurer into a
single office of Secretary/Treasurer. Although the written
request asked for the change to a single Article and Section
of the NAA By-Laws dated 6 May 1998, it was apparent
that several Articles and Sections of the By-Laws would
require changes in order to accomplish the complete task of
combining the two offices. The following are the changes
that are required:
Allen, George W. (Spouse) Dottie
1182 Wild Ginger Lane (W) Orange Park, Fl 32003-3227
Phone/Fax (904) 264-0903
e-mail [email protected]
Joseph Garrison – correct e-mail: [email protected]
James W. Kissick Jr. – correct e-mail: [email protected]
Michael F. Connors – new box # and zip code:
PO Box 1436, Zip - 20177
Article IV, Section 3. First sentence – Delete the words
“Secretary or treasurer” and substitute the word “Secretary/
Ford U. Ross – New address, phone, e-mail:
66062 Cambridge Road, Pinellas Park, FL 33782
E-mail: [email protected]
Article IV, Section 4. First and second sentences – Delete
the word “Treasurer” and substitute the word “Secretary/
Treasurer” in two instances.
John C. Barth – new address and phone:
4011 Green Pond Rd. Apt #69, Bethlehem, PA 18020
Phone: 610-867-2635
Article VI, Section 5. Second, third and fifth sentences –
Delete the word “Secretary” in three instances and substitute
the word “Secretary/Treasurer” in each instance.
Jerry Mason – (page 15, name inverted, should be in with the
M’s) 106-929 Esquimalt Road, Victoria, BC, Canada V9A
3M7. Phone: 250-381-8403.
E-mail: [email protected]
Article VII, Section 1. First sentence – Delete the word
“four” and substitute the word “three.” In the second
sentence delete the word “eight” and substitute the word
Article VII, Section 3. First sentence – Delete the word
“Treasurer” and substitute the word “Secretary/Treasurer.”
May 02, 2008 – July 31, 2008
Article VII, Section 4. Last sentence – Delete the word
“Secretary” and substitute the word “Secretary/Treasurer.”
Michael Seck---St. Louis, MO
Edward A. Moore Jr. ---Kirkwood, MO
Article VIII, Section 1. Change the entire first sentence to
read, “The elective officers to serve a nominal term of two
years shall be a President, a Vice President and a Secretary/
Treasurer.” In the last sentence of this section delete the
word “seven” and substitute “six.”
Article VIII, Sections 8, 9 and 10.
sections 7, 8 and 9, respectively.
Renumber these
Article IX, Section 3. In the last and next to last sentences
of this section, delete the word “Secretary” and substitute
the word “Secretary/Treasurer.”
Article VIII, Sections 6 and 7. Combine these sections into
one section titled “Section 6.” It is suggested that Section 6
be set forth in tabular form as follows:
“The NAA Secretary/Treasurer shall:
Article X, Section 1. In the first and second sentences of
this section, delete the word “Secretary” and substitute the
word “Secretary/Treasurer.”
a. Ensure that proper notice of all meetings, including
those of Council, are promulgated in a timely fashion by
electronic device, or in the NAA newsletter, or by mail,
based on the recommendation (added word “of”) the
Note: In the rewriting of Article VIII, Section 6, there have
been some slight changes in order, punctuation and wording
in order to accomplish the aim or this exercise. Ω
b. Ensure that proper records of proceedings of all
meetings are maintained;
Membership Committee Update
c. Maintain the membership records and ensure the
distribution of the NAA roster to be published annually on
1 March;
Since our last message in The Noon Balloon #78, the
membership committee has moved forward on the plan
outlined there to attract new members. The new NAA
brochures have been printed and distributed to some
museums at former airship bases, a couple of aviation
museums, during an appearance of the Goodyear blimp
and some have been put on display at a local airport lobby.
Your TNB editor is including some with his sale of airship
DVDs and books and George Allen is including some with
small stores sales. A targeted mailing to some college and
university history departments and libraries is under way to
attract attention to the role airships played in both WW II
and the Cold War. Finally, we will be running a half page
ad in the October, 2008 issue of The Journal of Military
History, published by the George C. Marshall Foundation
and the Virginia Military Institute for the Society for
Military History. This is a prestigious group of military
historians and they have about 3000 members. Our goal
here is to expose military historians, college and university
professors, and military museums to the NAA. A copy of the
ad is shown below. We are looking into other publications
that could provide us with additional exposure to not only
former blimp crew members, but also airship enthusiasts
and aviation historians and researchers. If anyone has any
suggestions of potential publications please let us know. Ω - Fred Morin, Chair
d. Maintain the Secretary/Treasurer correspondence files
or those of other elected officers if copies of correspondence
are presented for record purposes.
e. Maintain a record of all sums received by the NAA from
any source, categorizing them if applicable by the purpose
intended for their use by the grantor;
f. Make distributions therefrom as authorized by the
Council, subject to any limitation placed by an individual
g. Receive initial dues from applicants and renewal dues
from the membership, and donations either group may
h. Distribute proper credentials of membership and
periodically inform the Council of all membership
i. Deposit all sums received in insured accounts of
financial institutions specifically approved by the Council,
to be withdrawn only upon the signature of the Secretary/
Treasurer or secondarily by the President, both of whom are
to be indicated on the financial institution’s records as those
authorized to withdraw funds;
j. Make available the status of funds, books and vouchers
of the NAA Treasury upon request of the Council for its
inspection and verification;
(See page 32 for a sample of the new NAA magazine
advertisement. Don’t forget you can order recruiting
brochures from any officer or add them free to any Small
Stores order.) Ω
k. Prepare, or cause to be prepared, and certify, or cause to
be certified, the financial statements to be included in any
financial reports:
l. Perform other duties commensurate with the office, or
as may be assigned by the President.”
Art Arglbeben wrote Pete Brouwer: “In reminiscing about
my LTA service, I was thinking about the experiment of
landing blimps on aircraft carriers. I am probably one of the
very few surviving former blimp pilots who have landed a
blimp on a jeep aircraft carrier. I have never read anything
about this experiment in TNB, but the results of the experiment
are probably hidden somewhere in the Navy’s archives. If I
remember correctly, the experiment took place about 195455. The blimps were from ZP-1 flown out of NAF Weeksville
and were made on a jeep carrier. Everything went well for a
time until one of the blimps crashed and burned. Fortunately,
all of the crew escaped unharmed. If I remember correctly,
Charles Napier was the pilot.
Juergen Bock wrote, “If the L-19 is the “Underberg” ship of
1956-59, I was on it back in 1957 in stormy weather flying
over my hometown Bremen. At that time I worked at FockeWulf being located adjacent to the Bremen airport. After a
little talk with the dispatcher, I got a free ride. I met Lou
[Prost] as kind of the first hippie in my eyes, because he had
an archaic beard which was not “in” at that time; in other
words, ten years ahead of time. The flight over Bremen
was anything but comfortable, and I doubt that advertising
flights would still be made at that time of weather. Anyway,
anybody although being used to rocking rough car rides
could experience strange upheavals of his stomach. What
tickled me was the coincidence of names: “Prost” means in
German a drinking toast like “cheerioh” and “Underberg”
was a well-known liquor brand.
The cause of the crash was that the eye of the aft ground
handling pendant caught on a bolt on a 40mm gun tube.
This event can only happen rarely. I enjoy receiving the
magazines, but am saddened when I read about the passing
of men I served with such as Ed Sheely, John McCalla and
Si Siberlich. I hope things are going well with you.”
There was a large No Smoking sign in the cabin, but when
I undressed in the evening, my shirt sparkled with electric
discharges. It was the time of the synthetic “Nyltex” shirts
and underwear which produced inch-size sparks! - the curse
of synthetic fabric!!
Ed note: We’d heard a blackshoe sailor had been assigned
to paint the gun tub and the aft rope was dragging through
his fresh application, so he hung the line up and departed the
scene. At any rate, James Shock’s US NAVY AIRSHIPS (3rd
ed.) states of K-58: “Revised to ZP2K/ZSG-2 type, during
a carrier take-off 25 November 1952, the aft handling lines
caught on a carrier gun mount causing a 12-foot hole in the
stern of the envelope. K-58 settled into the sea; an engine
fire was extinguished as it sank. Submarines USS Bauer and
USS Sea Poacher rescued the crew.”
I’m on the way to Berlin to “The Long Night of Sciences”
Saturday night. Among others: r/c airship models regatta. Our
“beachball” [above] will be presented, but not participate in
the race. We found out that the inertia of 8 kg net plus 4 kg
attached air = 12 kg effectively does not permit quick turns.
For the October regatta in Friedrichshafen we will install
reserves able props for braking airspeed to enable a precise
turn around the pylons. Gunnar Traut, the pilot, is handling it
nicely. He is working now for Airbus. Driven by four props
with focusing slip streams, all maneuvers can be performed
by only by thrust control. Ω
Perhaps it would be easier to call the first blimp landing on
a CVE an experiment, made by “Buzz” Llyod and his K-29
crew in February 1944. However, as if on cue, Tom Cuthbert
just sent in a CD of his photos that include many on CVE ops
(above, and on back cover). Ω
TNB artist Bo Watwood has an idea for an upcoming
issue: “Many of us have experiences in flight/mission
planning or physical jobs such as ground handling, weigh
off, maintenance of flight systems and the many routine but
necessary jobs necessary to get an airship flying. We want
to share your knowledge of them in a single issue of TNB.
2) “Congratulations, Rb. (jg) MacDonald! Wishing you the
best of everything, although you’re the only one (unreadable)
a “boch” sub.” PhM-2 Victor Colby, USS Patriot (one of the
responding vessels) (Note: spelling errors on original menu
text, including McDonnell’s name.)
As we have reported in previous Noon Balloons, the one item
needed to correct the erroneous verdict of this fatal accident
and put history right is to identify the u-boat responsible.
Official records do not show any u-boats in the vicinity
of Bar Harbor on 3 July, 1944. However, there have been
several instances of u-boats not being where official records
state. The U-869 is sitting off the New Jersey coast rather
than near Gibraltar as the official records state. Further, if a
u-boat was successfully prevented from returning home, all
log books and navigation charts would be lost. It is totally
conceivable that a u-boat was discovered there and was
either damaged beyond repair by the K-14’s depth charges
and failed to return home or was sunk somewhere else in
the Atlantic.
You might have never driven a “mule” or got to be “the
mast top man” but you may want to learn about all these
interesting LTA jobs from other members. Please write your
own memories of your particular experiences and mail or
email them to me. Up ship!
Contact: Bo Watwood, 209 Pier Point Dr. Jackson’s Gap,
AL 36861, [email protected]
Continuing the K-14 Case discussion, Fred Morin wrote: So
far in our quest to solve the mystery around the crash of the
K-14 of ZP-11 out of NAS So. Weymouth off Bar Harbor,
ME on 2 July, 1944, we have presented the following:
Finally, let’s look at (3) interesting episodes. 1) The U-233,
sunk by the USS Card Task Group on 5 July, southeast of
Halifax, NS, was inbound to lay mines, but why were the
survivors told that the TG was looking for a u-boat already
in the area and then questioned at length about the K-14?
2) In August, the USS Bogue TG successfully attacked
and sank the U-1229 southeast of Newfoundland. Among
the survivors was Oskar Mantel, a German agent that was
supposed to be put ashore around Hancock Point, ME. 3)
In November, the U-1230 did successfully put ashore (2)
German agents, William Colepaugh and Erich Gimbel, at
Hancock Point who were subsequently captured.
1) Discrepancies in the official board of inquiry findings
concerning the lack of testimony from military and
civilian personnel on shore who heard and saw gunfire and
2) Refuted the contention of (2) depth charges falling free
after impacting the water and detonating,
3) Testimony from salvage operations personnel concerning
the quantity of spent shells collected on the cabin floor
and the official US Navy photographer’s notations about,
“photos of blimp shot down by German submarine.”,
4) Testimony from a Navy blimp pilot, first on scene in
the early hours of 3 July, to the bullet holes in the K-14
envelope at the point where the 40 ft. after section was torn
off and never recovered. Said fabric samples were sent to an
investigative agency’s laboratory for testing, with no results
ever presented for examination,
It seems totally beyond coincidence that in July, the K-14 is
downed while investigating a reported sighting of a u-boat
in the Bar Harbor area. One month later a u-boat is sunk
inbound for Hancock Point with an agent aboard, and in
November another u-boat successfully landed (2) agents at
Hancock Point. That’s a pretty busy area in remote Maine
for a 5 month period. By the way, the spot where the K14 crashed is in the channel leading into Hancock Point,
a town on the Bar Harbor islands. The coast line there is
very rugged, in 1944 it was very sparsely populated, and has
many deep water inlets and rivers. It was ideally suited for
clandestine u-boat activity.
5) An interview in 2005 with the only K-14 survivor from
the crash,
6) Testimony from a fellow blimp pilot being told by the
squadron commander at a pilot’s meeting called at the time
of the accident to not blame the pilot, but was unable to give
more details at the time.
Finally, another piece of evidence that contradicts the official
story and transcript of testimony. On the evening of July 4th
the survivors were having dinner at the Bar Harbor Officer’s
Club and decided to autograph a copy of the dinner menu for
their commander, Ens. McDonnell. Among the comments
are two significant remarks:
1) “Our first one, Buddy. It looks like staying together pays
off.” Ens. Mike Levine, co-pilot
Not related to the K-14 but, I note that at the end of Tom
Clancy’s “Hunt for Red October,” the captured Russian sub
is taken to the Maine coast where it can be hidden from
prying eyes. Ω
ZPG-3W Program (one of only four fully-qualified
ZPG-3W Command Pilots.) Finishing his Navy career
flying P2 NEPTUNE patrol planes, Dick took a job
with Goodyear. Among the highlights of his Goodyear
career, Dick was Pilot-in-Charge of the prestigious N2A
EUROPA operation in Europe 1972-79. After retiring
from Goodyear, Dick worked as a Pilot/Consultant
for many other LTA ventures, with an LTA career that
ultimately spanned five decades and over 20,000 hours
of LTA flight time ( I asked Dick if he had an exact tally
of his LTA flight hours, as I believed he had probably
surpassed the late Goodyear pilot Vern Smith’s 22,000
hours which had been hailed as a “record” when Vern
Rick Zitarosa writes, “A few interesting notes in this
1940 photo showing the NAS LAKEHURST Enlisted
Aviation Unit Bowling Team. Photo is taken in the old
2-lane bowling alley in “Combined Services Building”
on the base...location of much off-duty recreation.
Both “C.C.” and “Dick” stayed in touch over the years
(witness the snapshot insert taken in the late 1960’s at
San Antonio, TX when C.C. was visiting the area for
an Army Aviation conference and Dick was there as
Pilot-in-Charge of the Goodyear blimp MAYFLOWER.
Both gentlemen received Honorary Life Membership in
the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society.......C.C. lives in
nearby Whiting, NJ and Dick would visit once a year
from his home in Ohio (in a rather upscale assistedliving complex of which he referred to himself as “an
We lost Dick Widdicombe last fall, age 88. As far as
we know, C.C. Moore is now the only one left from this
photo. He stops out to the hangar at least once a week......
keeps us younger guys in line. Always a story.....and
always a good one especially when it begins “There was
the time me and Dick Widdicombe........” Ω
Two of the men in the photo [above] have a long
history of involvement with Lakehurst and LTA. Rigger
Clarence “C.C.” Moore (far left) had come to Lakehurst
from “four piper” destroyer USS LEARY (DD-158)
and Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Richard “Dick”
Widdicombe had transferred to Lakehurst from Sea
Duty as well; together, they went through the last class
of the Enlisted Men’s Rigid Airship Training School in
1940, both would fly aboard the prewar J4, the wartime
K, L, M and every other type of airship the Navy owned
in the next 22 years. “C.C.” retired as a Chief Petty
Officer in 1959, and became a civilian in Lakehurst’s
AT&D (Airship Test & Development) Department as
well as several other DOD/Military Engineering jobs
for another twenty years. Dick Widdicombe became
an Aviation Cadet, was commissioned an officer,
and piloted blimps through the rest of the Navy LTA
era, including the job of Chief Navy Test Pilot on the
Someone evidently lost their issue and had only the
wrapper left. They sent the zerox of these photos (below)
to our publisher, with no return address. Caption says
taken from the Santa Ana hangar in 1944 but no other
details. Whoever sent this, please scan the photos in
high resolution and identify yourself ! Ω
they installed the engines one by one as the cars were
finished--then they had to weight and balance them
under the Conn. Aircraft contract. So they moved the
finished product to the side door of the Mast building,
attached it to the hoist used in the lumber yard, swung
them out into the yard and placed them on wooden
horses to determine the weight, balance point and center
of gravity. Then because they have cockpit instruments
and open cockpits to keep dry they moved them back in
under cover after they were through.
Vin was also interested in the linkage between these MA
companies--The Burgess, Lawley, Sturtevant and Pigeon
Hollow Spar all knew each other, and subcontracted and
recommended with each other. CMDR. Jerome Hunsaker,
head of the Bureau of Construction and Repair in the
Navy Department formerly (and later) at MIT, also
knew and the players in these companies -- that is how
Conn. Aircraft contracted with Sturtevant and Pigeon.
Hunsaker also took Starling Burgess’s advice and put the
innovative tail booms on the NC-flying boats to reduce
overall weight and recommended Pigeon to build them- which they did for all the NCs…. Interesting story that
we should write up some day….Bill. Ω
Fred Morin wrote to Bill Deane: “On the Sturtevant
website they show 11 photos of B-class blimp cars at
the Pigeon Spar company. Do you know why it appears
like they are taking the cars into the shop? Did they do
sub-assembly work in one place and then take them in
to finish?
It appears like the Sturtevant website is being upgraded;
I don’t recall these photos being there before now. And
there appears to be more aviation content….. Fred
Bill responded:
On the Model B Airship control cars-- I worked with Vin
Tocco on the ID of the pictures which, as he says in his
website, were in the photo album he bought on E-Bay
for $888.00. Most all the photos on the site came from
that album.
He could not place the location or what these “aircraft
fuselages” were doing in the Sturtevant album. I knew
from looking at them that they were airship cars-I looked up the Class B Navy airships and saw that
Sturtevant had built the engines and believing that the
cars were built not far from the engine source. I went
to the usual suspects and was able to exactly match the
present houses on Coleridge St. in East Boston across
from the Pigeon Hollow Spar Mast building and their
lumber yard shown in the pictures.
The airship cars were built in and stored in the Mast
Shed (long and reasonably wide) in 1917. I believe
Let’s hope Fred and Bill do so! Speaking of early H2
airships, Ms. Ethel Trenholm Nepveux, our newest
member, shared the C-ship photo seen here. We think it
might be the C-1, in flight before the helium edict, but
we do not know the exact date. She wrote, “The U.S.
Navy dirigible encountered mechanical trouble over
Georgetown, South Carolina, and made an unscheduled
landing. Alfred Glover Trenholm [Ethel’s father], a
businessman and free lance photographer of Georgetown,
took the photo with a Press Graflex camera that used
glass photographic plates. Prints from his pictures have
appeared in magazines and have been published as
illustrations for historical articles. They are often the
only existing pictorial records of the time. He was a
pioneer in photography in the Georgetown area.” Ω
While researching Metalclads for an upcoming article,
a member of the History Committee was looking for
information from the Association of Balloon and Airship
Constructors (ABAC). Marc de Piolenc [email protected] helped out with details: “Archivale (http:// is the current sales outlet for
copies - paper and electronic - of technical documents
from the A.B.A.C. collection, and from other technical
collections that have found their way into my files over
the years. Total number of documents is about 4,000
- about half of them balloon- or airship-related, the rest
covering a variety of offbeat technical topics. The site
has a full shopping cart system and credit cards are
accepted through Ω
Speaking of licenses, Herm Spahr dropped off a whole
box of interesting photos, documents and other LTA
materials we’ll need some time to go though. Surely
everyone will recognize this wallet card… though most
are already filled out! Ω
Mark Lutz asked, “WW-2 “character of flights” key
in #78 Noon Balloon: When I think of WW-2 K-ship
flights, I think of :
Convoy Escort Rescue Patrol
Mine Spotting
None of those words appear in the “Character of Flights”
list on page 15 of N.B. #78. Does anyone know the “key
to the key”? (Dad’s logbook uses those letter codes).
A number of members e-mailed links or entire articles
about the Boeing announcement and the continuing
developments with the 4th ZEP NT. Airship Ventures,
etc. Walt Bjerre mailed a clipping about ‘Skyhook’ from
the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to everyone for staying
on the LTA lookout and reporting everything so our
members can share in the bounty. Ω
New member Harry E. ‘Hy’ Blythe Jr. sent along copies
of his Dad’s early licenses – you see the balloon pilot
one above – and can clear up a mystery for the history
buffs. In the Defender christening photo published in the
Goodyear book, H. E. Blythe Sr. is the “unidentified”
person standing next to P. Litchfield. (Arrow, below.)
A bottle of liquid air explodes on the handrail of the Defender as Amelia Earhart christens the ship, with radio announcer standing by at the
Cleveland Air Races, August 30, 1929. (Left) At right, Goodyear Chairman P.W. Litchfield and Amelia Earhart are flanked by the cream of women
pilots of the period on the occasion of the Defender’s christening. From left to right: Bobby Trout, Ruth Nichols, Phoebie Omlie, Amelia Earhart,
P.W. Litchfield, unidentified man, Gladys O’Donnell, Blanch Noyes and Thea Rasche.
These movements often were observed over land when
flying into thermals that pushed the nose up and aside,
causing lateral and pitch oscillation very much like
riding a drunk elephant. Another obvious pendulum
effect was during a statically-heavy (normal) landing
roll on the single main landing wheel: The pilot often
applied reverse power to slow down, but only for about
ten seconds, because the nose would increasingly pitch
down until the 2-foot ECM antenna on the forward
lower envelope would strike the ground. Conversely,
rapid application of engine power on takeoff caused
the nose to pitch up with no immediate airflow over
the horizontal tail stabilizers (elevators) to prevent it.
Steady application of power and attention to the pitch
inclinometer were required to not exceed the 11-degree
limit but still generate lift to overcome several thousand
pounds of static weight. Many a tail wheel was scraped
Pushing the Envelope
By Thomas R. Cuthbert, Jr., Ph.D.
Now consider the situation when the left engine suddenly
went into uncontrollable reverse with a statically heavy
K-ship in a turn at about 150 feet above the ocean. For
reasons stated in my recent article (TNB 76 page 22)
I shut off that engine about the time the lookout in the
rear of the car shouted over the intercom that the tail was
nearly in the water. So the remaining good engine DID
provide full thrust with the nose up. The wing (envelope)
was nearly stalled and there was little elevator control
at that slow speed to prevent the engine thrust pitch-up
pendulum effect. So I elected not to pull the nose up
further by using the elevator, because the K-ship was
about to land in the ocean.
This responds to the question by Mark Lutz in TNB
77, page 5: “I’d be interested in some details of why
a falling airship should NOT be pointed nose up and
engines gunned.” My disclaimer is that it has been
52 years since I flew a K-ship and even longer since
I studied physics. However, I did fly K-ships for 961
hours over six years, became an airship commander,
and taught airship construction in NZTU (Glynco) LTA
Ground School. Also, I flew airplanes from 1944 to
There is some relevant K-ship data as seen in TNB 77
page 14 drawings that show that the 43-foot car and
250-foot envelope weighed 9 tons. I recall that 60% of
the car weight was supported by X and Y rigged cables
attached to four curtains sewn to the upper envelope.
The remaining 40% car weight was carried by “finger”
patches glued to the envelope around the top of the car.
Thus the K-ship car behaved like a weight attached
to an embedded pendulum stick that rotated around a
center of motion well up into the envelope above the
car. The envelope was a 4:1 cigar-shaped airfoil and the
lower vertical stabilizer had a tail wheel that was 135
feet aft of the pilot, which would strike the ground at
11 degrees nose up pitch on takeoff. The two geared
engines could push the airship to the 57-knot speed limit
based on when the nose battens might tend to puncture
the envelope.
The car moved like a pendulum, rapidly sideways and
more slowly fore/aft, the latter because there was a lot
more mass farther away from the center of motion.
I suggest that it is OK to add power with the airship nose
pitched up under the right circumstances. Gunning the
engines does cause the airship to pitch up, but slowly
because a lot of mass is so far removed from the center
of rotation. However, the elevators cannot control it if
there is little airflow. The K-ship was slow to respond to
control in any event, and the most challenging situation
was landing on a heaving and rolling aircraft carrier
deck. Navy airmen did that too. Ω
Ed. Note: Tom also donated two books from his training
days, “Airship Electrical Systems” dated 1956 and
a complete list of lesson plans offered at Pensacola,
“Lesson Plans-Academic and Flight Support, Airship
Phase” and a Training Command book he authored,
“Airship Electrical Systems, CNABT P-251, Airship
Phase, 1956.” Both will be sent to Pensacola’s Museum
Library after HC learns from them. Ω
familiar sight over stadiums. Air Management Services’
blimps also flew over the Athens and Atlanta Olympic
Games, providing a platform for aerial filming and
helping security officials keep an eye on the crowds.
The Air Force has long used stationary blimps, [sic] all
called “Fat Albert,” in the lower Florida Keys to relay
U.S. government, anti-communist broadcasts to Cuba
and assist in coastal surveillance, but those are tethered
to the ground. “This is different because it’s mobile,”
Moorlag said. “We can move it into an area we’d like to
concentrate on.” Ω
Airships: Colonel Blimp’s eco-flight credentials
By Jimmy Lee Shreeve (Excerpt, Reprinted)
Blimp joins anti-smuggling patrols off Florida
By Jane Sutton (Excerpt, Reprinted)
…The Zeppelin over London is essentially a tourist
attraction. But it could prove the beginning of a revolution
in air transport. Airships are increasingly being touted
as an eco-friendly form of flight. As environmentalist
George Monbiot puts it, “The environmental cost [of
airships] could be reduced almost to zero.”…According
to researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change
Research, the total climate-changing impact of an airship
is 80-90 per cent less than that of ordinary aircraft - and
that’s even when they’re burning fossil fuels. They also
fly at a low altitude - around 4,000 feet as opposed to
35,000 feet - which means their water vapor emissions
have very little impact on global warming. Another bonus
is most airships don’t need a runway and could operate
without further airport expansion. Another big plus is
airships are quiet. If they were powered by hydrogen fuel
cells you’d hardly be able to hear them at all - which
would make a big difference to residents living on flight
paths. Although airships won’t be gracing our skies as
the main form of commercial air transport any time soon,
their eco-friendly potential is raising some interesting
possibilities. British airship firm, SkyCat, for example,
says that airships could take off from the reservoirs
bordering Heathrow airport - making use of existing
land, rather than encroaching on already beleaguered
green land…. But hundreds of millions would be needed
to get the SkyCat into commercial production. Even to
fill it up with helium would cost between £1 million and
£3 million…For Professor Michael Northcott, professor
of ethics at Edinburgh University, there is no doubt:
flying by airships instead of the more polluting jet planes
should be explored by airlines. Talking at the “Clouds
Of Witness: Moral Responsibility On A Planet In Peril”
forum, held in Kuala Lumpur in December last year,
he said the benefits of flying at low altitudes in airships
could go beyond global warming - it could bring a sea
change in air passengers attitudes to nature.
(Ed Note: See “Z” Prize” in ‘Short Lines,’ pg 27.)
MIAMI (Reuters) - With oil prices rising sky-high, the
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard will test a helium-filled
blimp to see if it can supplement the fuel-hungry aircraft
that search the Florida Straits for smugglers and boats
in distress. The Navy is leasing a Skyship 600, about
the size of a Boeing 747, for the six-week test mission
between Florida’s southern coast and Cuba, Coast Guard
Lt. Matthew Moorlag said on Tuesday.
The manned ship is held aloft by nonflammable helium
and propelled by two Porsche 930 engines that consume
10 to 12 gallons of regular gasoline per hour. “It’s
considered a very green machine,” said George Spyrou,
president of Airship Management Services Inc, which
owns and operates the blimp. “A regular jet uses more
fuel to travel from the gate to the taxiway than we would
to fly for a whole week.”
The airship has a bathroom and can stay aloft up to 52
hours without refueling but the surveillance flights off
Florida will be limited to about eight hours to guard
against crew fatigue, Spyrou said. His company in
Greenwich, Connecticut, has a contract for a little under
$1 million for the test. It will supply two pilots to float the
ship at an altitude of 1,500 to 3,000 feet while a crewman
operates the radar and other scanning equipment.
Navy and Coast Guard technicians on the ground in Key
West, Florida, will monitor the data and direct other
vessels where they’re needed to chase drug or people
smugglers or perform rescues. “Basically it provides that
eye in the sky for us so we can see who’s out there,”
Moorlag said. The blimp can travel at about 57 mph (91
kph) and can fly in the same weather conditions as other
aircraft. Unlike a helicopter, it does not vibrate, so it
might provide a smoother platform for some monitoring
instruments, Moorlag said. Ad-covered blimps are a
be useful in Alberta’s oilsands, where huge pieces of heavy
equipment often need to be transported through places
where road access can be an issue throughout much of
the year. “If you’ve got a heavy load and you come to the
end of the road and you need to move it a certain distance
and that ground is soft or muskeggy, certainly there’s an
application for it,” Jess said.
The aircraft also has an environmental twist, since it cuts
down on the need to build and maintain new roads in remote
regions. “When you weigh up the environmental impact of
building a road and the fuel associated with maintaining a
road and hauling snow... it’s quite interesting to see how
that adds up in comparison,” Jess said.
Boeing, Skyhook To Develop Airship Hauler
Via Dr. Barry Prentice
Under the agreement, Boeing is designing and making two
prototypes of the JHL-40 at its plant in Ridley Park, Pa.
SkyHook will own, maintain, operate and service all of
the aircraft. SkyHook and Boeing officials did not disclose
the cost of making the initial prototypes, nor how much
it will cost to bring the technology to a commercial level.
They also did not provide specifics of who its customers
would be, though Jess said in a statement that “the list of
customers waiting for SkyHook’s services is extensive,
and they enthusiastically support the development of the
CALGARY - A private Calgary company and the world’s
biggest aircraft maker plan to build a “blimp on steroids” an airship filled with helium and powered by big rotors that
can be used to haul heavy equipment to remote areas where
there are no roads, including northern Canada. Calgary’s
SkyHook International Inc. announced it is teaming up
with Chicago-based Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) to build the
so-called Jess Heavy Lifter, or JHL-40, which will haul
steel, huge trucks and other equipment in remote areas
where ground transportation may not be an option. The
SkyHook JHL-40 heavy-lift rotorcraft looks like a blimp
with four helicopter-like rotors underneath and will be able
to lift a 40-tonne load slung from its belly and carry it 300
kilometres without refuelling. That’s a big advantage in the
Arctic, where the costs of developing oil and gas projects
and diamond and base metal mines have soared because
of the need to build roads or provide expensive airplane
access to remote communities. Boeing and SkyHook hope
to have the first JHL-40 in service by 2012.
Other Media Excerpts on JHL-40
According to the Wall Street Journal, the JHL-40 “will
break new ground by achieving what is known as neutral
buoyancy,” allowing “all the lift generated by the rotors
[to] be available for lifting payloads.”
Aviation Week (7/8, Warwick) noted that the JHL-40 is
“[d]esigned to lift a 40-ton slung payload over a 200-mile
range,” and “is being aimed initially at transporting heavy
equipment for the oil industry in the Canadian Arctic and
Alaska, avoiding the need to build roads in remote areas.”
Skyhook, which “plans to establish an operating entity
offering heavylift services to the oil and gas, forestry,
mining and construction industries,” says it “sees a nearterm market for 50-60 aircraft.”
SkyHook president Pete Jess first came up with the idea 25
years ago, after having encountered a number of logistical
challenges during his work in the oil and gas industry.
“Its a blimp on steroids because its got more than 20,000
horsepower on it. It’s a serious working machine.” Once
SkyHook secured the patent, the company took the design
to Boeing, the commercial and military plane manufacturer
which decided to develop and build the system. “Most
people in the airship world try to be all things to all people.
Every airship has tonnes of capability that it really may or
may not need because it tries to please a broad audience,”
said Kenneth Laubsch, Boeing’s chief engineer for
advanced rotorcraft systems. The JHL-40 can be used in
mining, forestry and oil and gas operations in inhospitable
regions, where transporting heavy loads by boat, road or
rail is often too costly and difficult. The technology could
According to “Flight Global” (7/8, Trimble), The aircraft
“will leverage rotor technology from the CH-47 Chinook,
avionics and flight controls technology from the 787 and
Boeing’s experience as integrator.” However,
while “Boeing is leveraging the rotor technology of the
CH-47,” it may not be able to use its engine, the Honeywell
T55, which “could face export control problems for a
commercial aircraft.” The Financial Post, Canada’s CBC
(7/8) and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (7/8, Logan, 278K)
also reported the story. Ω
High Altitude Airship In Transition
In April 2008, the HAA program transferred from the
Missile Defense Agency to the U.S. Army Space and Missile
Defense Command (USASMDC), located at Huntsville,
AL The USASMDC is continuing the development and
demonstration of the HAA to align with the USASMDC
mission. USASMDC is the Army specified proponent
for space, high altitude, ground-based midcourse defense
and serves as the Army operational integrator for global
missile defense; and conducts mission-related research
and development. USASMDC conducts space and missile
defense operations and provides planning, integration,
control and coordination of Army forces and capabilities
in support of U.S. Strategic Command.
Aeroscraft Technology Development Demonstrator
Aeros 40D “Sky Dragon” Airship Enters the Final
Assembly Stage
A press release made it into the 26 May 08 issue of ‘Aviation
Week.’ It says the FAA has accepted Aeros’ application
for a “buoyancy-assisted aircraft with adjustable static
The company states, “With the Aeroscraft ML866 program
rapidly moving forward, the technology demonstrator
Aeros 40D will play a significant role in the overall
process. The program will utilize the Aeros 40D LighterThan-Air vehicle as a flying test bed to accelerate and
mitigate risks in the Aeroscraft program. Different flight
experiments will be conducted to demonstrate and flightqualify the key enabling technologies and systems such
as the buoyancy managements system, low speed control
system, flight management system and variety of flight
critical subsystems.
Lockheed Martin’s unique experience with certificating
commercial airships with the FAA gives it the understanding
to address the concerns of flight through controlled
airspace, especially with an unmanned airship.
The Aeros 40D is United States Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) Type Certified airship and featuring
the advanced technology package, which makes the airship
a perfect platform to be utilized for variety of the Aeroscraft
development and testing. The Aeros 40D will provide
many overall advantages from risk reduction to ML866
program acceleration. The numerous advantages can be
categorized by time savings through acceleration of the
program; flight qualifying components prior to integration
and the ability to modify components in parallel to main
vehicle construction, all leading to overall cost reduction
of the entire program and reduction in program risk in
terms of time and cost. Ω
23 June 08 issue of Aviation Week features this new
graphic entitled “ISIS Also Rises” and states,” L-M and
Northrop Grumman are to compete to build a subscale
stratospheric surveillance airship demonstrator in the
third phase of the US DARPA ISIS program... carrying a
massive UHF/X band actively scanned array radar capable
of tracking air targets out to 600 km and ground targets out
to 300 km while simultaneously providing high-capacity
communications directly to users in-theatre. The latest LM design shows the AESA mounted internally, avoiding
issues with the movement of radar arrays embedded within
the flexible skin of the airship, which is the size of several
football fields. Ω
forward for German-American relations at the time.) Max also
rose up through the ranks from Elevatorman to Watch Officer
(“Wachoffiziere”) to Commander (“Luftschiffkapitan” on
16 transatlantic flights) on the LZ127 GRAF ZEPPELIN,
“coming into his own” and making just about every flight
of the most successful of all rigid airships from 1928 thru
Navy MZ3A Airship #167811 will undergo helium
purification/annual inspection in ten days preparatory to
return-to-flight approximately July 10-15, 2008. Concurrent
to this development, I am honored to announce that I have
been selected to take the position of “Project Manager, Navy
Airship Operations Support NAES Lakehurst Field Office”
with I.S.S.I., Inc. (Integrated Systems Solutions Incorporated)
in support of this initiative.
Having started lighter-than-air service in the German Naval
Airship Division during World War One, Max Pruss had begun
on the Parseval non-rigid PL6 in 1914. Moving over to rigid
airships, he spent the war in the crew of Horst von ButtlarBrandenfels and Hans von Schiller assigned to Zeppelins L6,
L11, L30 (the first “super Zeppelin”) L25, L57, L54, L72
(assigned but not flown) and L61 (under von Schiller, for a
series of experimental/photo flights after the Armistice.) He
went with von Schiller to employment with the Zeppelin
Company after separating from service in the German Navy
about 1921-22. His experience and skillful, sure handling of
the elevator wheel soon earned Max Pruss a place on Hugo
Eckener’s “first string” team, a pattern which continued
through his career at LZ/DZR. In 1936, with 16 transatlantic
flights in command of the GRAF ZEPPELIN, over 20,000
hours total Rigid Airship Flight Time in his logbook Pruss
became Executive Officer of the LZ-129 Hindenburg,
under Ernst Lehmann. Eventually, he made a few flights in
command of Germany’s flagship Zeppelin later in the 1936
season and was designated as the Hindenburg’s Commander
for the 1937 season. (American observer Harold Dick would
note years later “Whenever Pruss was in command, the ship
was always under perfect control.”)
Many personal thanks to I.S.S.I. and their leadership under
CEO Larry Wagner for their generosity and flexibility in
making this wonderful opportunity available to me. It is my
opinion that this is a crucial time for LTA (civilian as well
as military), but that we have a wonderful group of people
who will move purposefully forward and that we will insure
that MZ3A has a safe, cost-effective, effective integration as
an important component of Naval/Military aviation. I will
certainly do everything I can to “make it happen” this time,
as I joked even LAST year that this was “The Alamo For
Navy LTA, Chapter 33-1/3.”
So begins yet another chapter from the airship book (GIANTS
IN THE SKY by Norman Richards) picked up by chance
by a somewhat-chubby10-year-old kid at “G. Harold Antrim
Elementary School, Point Pleasant Beach, NJ” 36 years
Alexander Pruss, grandson of Hindenburg Luftschiff-Kapitan
Max Pruss, visited the Hindenburg crash site and the Navy
Lakehurst Historical Society exhibits in historic Hangar #1
on Thursday, May 15th.
Badly burned in the Hindenburg fire, Max Pruss almost
didn’t survive and underwent several months of skin-grafts/
rehabilitation at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New
York City. Still recovering, he had to remain on the sidelines
when LZ-130 GRAF ZEPPELIN II flew in 1938-1939, had
a Luftwaffe administrative post in charge of Rhein Main
Airfield during World War II with the rank of Colonel and
spearheaded the postwar push for German resurgence of
Zeppelin airship travel in the 1950’s. “It was not always
easy for him. His injuries remained painful, flying in any
type of aircraft was especially uncomfortable for him due to
pressure changes.” Alexander had been to Lakehurst many
years ago.......the last time he was on a tour as a teenager, his
host was Admiral Rosendahl. Most of his grandfather and
father’s artifacts/archives have been donated to the Museums
at Friedrichshafen, Cuxhaven and Zeppelinheim, but
Alexander did present the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society
with a set of 1936 Hindenburg color postcards as a memento
of his visit (The Pruss family still eats off of certain pieces
of Zeppelin chinaware on special occasions!) It was also
nice to be able to show Alexander a letter from his late father
Klaus F. Pruss to me, dated 1974, with special greetings to “
A young airship enthusiast!” Ω
- Rick Zitarosa, NLHS, NAA
It was an interesting visit for Alexander and his wife, Astrid.
Of course, his grandfather Max Pruss is best known as
Commanding Officer (Pilot-In-Charge) of the Hindenburg
on its last flight, May 6, 1937, but Hangar #1 is also the
place where Max Pruss stepped down from LZ126/ZR-3 as a
member of her crew when she was delivered in a triumphant
flight from Germany, October 15, 1924 (only the SECOND
East-West crossing of the Atlantic by air and a huge step
Count Zeppelin’s third airship, the LZ-3, first flew
October 9, 1906 carrying 11 people and flying for more
than two hours. It flew once more in 1906, and then was
stored for the winter. 1907 was a year of successful flying
and numerous experimental modifications. No attempt
will be made to list the changes here but an examination
of vintage photos will reveal that it is a challenge to find
two that are exactly alike.
1907 was such a successful year for LZ-3 that the
Imperial German Army was successfully lobbied
to purchase a Zeppelin. LZ-3 was judged less than
was needed for military service so a larger LZ-4 was
designed and built. After several successful flights, LZ-4
undertook an endurance trial and was destroyed due to
engine failure and subsequent bad weather tearing LZ-4
from its temporary moorings.
LZ-3 kept flying in 1908, demonstrating to all that the
nay-sayers were carping pessimists and that a Zeppelin
could continue to operate without coming to a bad end.
The Imperial Army ended up buying a rebuilt LZ-3
(Army designation Z.I) and a new LZ-5 (Z.II) in 1909.
LZ-3 soldiered on in the Army service for several years.
It outlasted the first few commercial Zeppelins including
the first ‘lucky’ commercial Zeppelin, LZ-10 Schwaben.
The LZ-3 was finally dismantled as obsolete in 1913.
100th Anniversary slipping past
unnoticed, uncelebrated
By C. P. Hall II
The typical “Noon Balloon” reader is unique among
Lighter-Than-Air aviators in at least one respect. Almost
all of them flew in the same class of airships (K-ships) for
most of their LTA flying careers. By comparison, if you
started with LZ-1 and worked your way through a list of
officers and crewmen of German, French, Italian, British,
and even early American airships, I would venture that
the majority flew in one, two, three or more individually
unique craft instead of one or more sister-ships. The
reason for this was succinctly observed back in the 20’s,
“Airplanes breed like rabbits while airships breed like
In a universe of a few unique examples, there are
some that are bad designs, doomed to fail. Others are
good designs with ‘green’ crews that meet with early
misfortune. A few are good designs with capable crews
whose number comes up. There would be little history of
an aircraft type that “. . . breed like elephants” were it not
for a fourth example or category, the ‘lucky’ ship.
Eight years ago there was a substantial celebration on
the 100th anniversary of the first flight of LZ-1. Count
Zeppelin’s first craft, as revolutionary and imaginative
as it was, surely falls into the first category found in
the proceeding paragraph. Today there is very little
recognition of the history of Count Zeppelin’s first ‘lucky’
ship, LZ-3.
Now some may conclude that I have missed the boat
regarding this “anniversary” as LZ-3’s first flight was in
1906. I must reply that, while you may be right about
the first flight, I am still in the first half of LZ-3’s flying
career and have several years to go before “anniversary”
becomes completely meaningless. Too much of the
‘history’ of LTA focuses on disasters. It should be our
goal and method to remember and emphasize a record of
substantial success; and the potential for future successes
as well. We should remember and celebrate the ‘lucky’
ships such as Germany’s LZ-3, Britain’s R33, and
America’s Los Angeles. Ω
Ed. Note: See Sig Geist’s report on page 18
News from Friedrichshafen
sponsors on its side. Prominent among them will be InBev
UK, an English brewery (part of Belgium-based InBev). It
will not only advertise its “Stella Artois”, England’s most
favorite lager on the airship’s flank, but will also be the sole
sponsor of Zeppelin passenger flights over London (see
photo below) during a 6-week period from July 10 - August
21 this summer.
Composed and submitted by Sig Geist
Fourth Zeppelin NT goes to USA was the title of an
article that informed readers of TNB #78 that Californiabased Airship Ventures, Inc. (AV) had successfully financed
the purchase of a Zeppelin NT 07 airship from Zeppelin
Luftschifftechnik, GmbH (ZLT) in early May 2008. AV
was formed to bring Zeppelin NT airships to the US for
“flightseeing” tours, media and science mission operations.
Pending final checkout, first flight achievement and
anticipating a short but busy flying season while still in
Europe, the new airship will be transported to the US (via
dockship) during September 2008. Following its arrival
in Galveston and subsequently taking to the air will be a
dream come true for both companies when after a hiatus of
70 years, a Zeppelin airship will have returned to the US and
cruise leisurely over its magnificent regions.
Zeppelin NT #4, Copyright InBEV UK.
InBEV, is the new parent company of Anheuser-Bush
Meanwhile the dream got a lot closer to becoming reality as
on May 21, 2008 the fourth and latest Zeppelin NT airship
successfully completed its first flight over Friedrichshafen,
Germany. ZLT and AV jointly announced the event via
press release. Quoted here are a few excerpts, this from R.
Gritzbach, Zeppelin VP of engineering: “Being the fourth
ship in our series production, we were able to incorporate
a number of design improvements - reducing weight while
increasing lift and achieving a near doubling of airframe
lifetime - that makes this our finest ship to date!” Alex Hall,
Airship Ventures enthusiastic CEO declared: “What an
incredible process we have witnessed over this past year the assembly of the frame, fitting out of the gondola, helium
being put in the envelope, the first start up of the engines,
and now her maiden flight.” Closing out the quotes, Fritz
Guenther, Zeppelin Flight Operations Manager and the first
pilot to fly the new airship stated: “This is the 3rd Zeppelin
for which I have been part of the maiden flight and the feeling
of pride in knowing all our hard work has resulted in success
never diminishes. As a pilot, I look forward to confirming
the new performance characteristics.” Airframe assembly
for the 246 foot long airship began in March 2007. For all
involved it was a proud and long awaited moment when the
new airship left the 360 foot long hangar and successfully
achieved first flight. In the meantime, two pilots from Airship
Ventures have arrived in Germany and are training with their
new ship. One of them is England’s 33-year old Katharine
Board. Following certification, she will be the first woman
to captain a Zeppelin airship.
Commenting that his lager qualities are synonymous with this
project, InBev UK president Stuart MacFarlane said: “We
are happy to offer Londoners and tourists the opportunity
to enjoy such an unforgettable and unique experience onboard the ‘Stella Artois: Star Over London’ airship.” Stating
this entrance is a first for passenger flights with a Zeppelin
airship over London, Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei CEO
Thomas Brandt said: “We are proud that our Zeppelin NT
can celebrate its debut for commercial round trips over this
uniquely beautiful metropolis in Europe and we hope for
regular engagements in the future.” Zeppelin flights with the
‘Stella Artois: Star Over London’ airship costs 185 pounds
for 30 minutes and 360 pounds for the one-hour flight. For
individual bookings call: +44 (0)20 7183 3911/ 3912/ 3913.
For companies or groups of 10 and more people call: +44 (0)
207 1833 024.
Following the above series of Zeppelin flights over London
and prior to its shipment to the US, the new Zeppelin NT
will be the star attraction for an exclusive channel-crossing
flight tour that will take its passengers from the UK to
Northern France, Belgium and The Netherlands. The firsttime tour named AERWIN TOUR 2008 was organized by
a Z-Team member in cooperation with Zeppelin Europe
Tours (ZET) and is in keeping with the aims of promoting
Zeppelin Tourism within the ZET concept. The tour will
give passengers a taste of things to come with proposed 45seater Z-airships in the future and the outcome will serve
as a benchmark for testing VIP-flights. ZET chairman
Wolfgang von Zeppelin speaks of an “Experiment in the
high end market segment”. Furthermore, he hopes for a
breakthrough for his ZET project in the US, especially since
California’s Airship Ventures, Inc. (AV), now the owner of
the new Zeppelin NT is also interested in a larger airship
with a capacity for 45 passengers. Anyway, commencing
As noted earlier, prior to the new Zeppelin departure to
the US in September, it will be engaged in a number of
passenger and advertising flight operations. In addition to
Airship Ventures’ own distinctive display on the envelope
(see inside cover), the airship will until then – as has been
learned in the interim - display banners also from different
their exciting flight tour from the airship-historic grounds at
Cardington, UK, AERWIN TOUR 2008 passengers will then
enjoy bird’s-eye views of London, Dover and after crossing
the Channel, observe Calais and Dunkirk in France before
setting down in Brussels, Belgium. After a one-day visit
there, the aerial journey continues via Antwerp to Rotterdam
and Valkenburg in The Netherlands. According to the ZET
website and its link to
the AERWIN TOUR 2008, all tour-associated activities,
including round-trip sightseeing flights over several locations
are scheduled to take place between August 26 and September
07, 2008. Tour inquiries by interested persons are requested
to be made to: AERWIN, Phone: +31 70 301 2700, Fax: +31
70 301 2707 or by mail to: AERWIN, Spoorlaan 6 , 2495 AL
Den Haag, The Netherlands.
LZ 4 before destruction in 1908.
Photo courtesy Zeppelin Museum, Friedrichshafen.
Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen will show the exhibition
“1908 - From Abstraction to Zeppelin Foundation” during
the summer and early fall. The museum press officer sent
this writer their press release announcing the exhibition
and hastened to add: “We would be very pleased if you
could write about our exhibition.” So here, verbatim is the
museum’s press release:
The time before the First World War was a period of enormous
change and great events, which still affect us today. For
instance, there followed an industrialization in South–West
Germany without parallel, which continues to play a major
role for the town and the region. And elsewhere? 1908 saw
not only the screening of the first animated cartoon, but
Maggi brought the stock cube onto the market.
The aim of the exhibition is to vividly illustrate the many
facets of the year 1908, and between 1905 and 1911, with
selected exhibits. The content of the exhibition is not
restricted just to the history of the town, but will also place
this date, so important for the town down to the present
day, in a European context. This is not an exercise in selfindulgence, but a critical reflection on an epoch that has left
its mark at almost all levels because of the conflict between
tradition and progress: be it in the field of technology or art
and culture, in the economy or in politics, there always seems
to be a struggle between preserving the old and throwing it
1908, From Abstraction to Zeppelin Foundation
Temporary exhibition 18 July - 12 October 2008
2008 is the centenary of the setting up of the Zeppelin
foundation. Do we know in what context to place this unique
foundation? What were the reasons for setting it up and what
was the cultural and historical background at the time? What
were the conditions in the region and beyond?
For more information about “1908” please contact Sabine
Mücke, Exhibition Coordination, Zeppelin Museum
Friedrichshafen GmbH, Seestr. 22, D-88045 Friedrichshafen,
Tel.: ++49(0)7541 3801-37, Fax ++49(0)7541 3801-81, [email protected]
In Germany the Fleet Acts were being pushed through by
Tirpitz, opportunities opened up for women to study at
university and Sigmund Freud put markers down with a
lecture at the first Psychoanalytic Congress in Salzburg. In
Palestine the city of Tel Aviv was founded by Zionists.
And beside all these events, in the town of Echterdingen
near Stuttgart, the Zeppelin airship LZ 4 was destroyed by
fire after landing as a result of a thunderstorm. Seen against
the momentous events rather a sideshow, yet for the history
of Friedrichshafen this has remained an event of great
significance down to the present day. The disaster moved
millions of Germans and gave rise to a willingness to give
donations previously unknown. In just a few weeks more
than 6 million Marks were collected, which formed the basis
for the Zeppelin foundation that still exists today.
Times of opening: during July, August and September daily
from 9 am to 5 pm; in May, June and October daily, except
Mon, from 9 am to 5 pm and in November until April daily,
except Mon, from 10 am to 5 pm.
Note: Due to editorial and publishing needs for the Fall 2008
edition of TNB # 79, above articles were submitted prior to
the normal deadline. Some content may appear ‘premature’
and/or ‘dated’ but can be viewed as “current” at time of
Little did Griffin imagine that within two years, he
himself would pilot a dirigible in combat service off
the coast of France – and on one occasion, carry out
an airborne exploit which would make that unnamed
aeronaut’s exploits seem tame.
The U.S. Navy itself had not yet begun to experiment
with lighter-than-air flight in 1916; its first airship, the
DN-1, would not fly until April of the following year.
In Europe, however, the belligerents were already
employing LTA craft in a variety of roles.
(Below: French AT-type airship.)
Lighter-Than-Air Croix de Guerre:
James F. Griffin in the Great War
By Joe Long, Curator of Education,
SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum,
Columbia, South Carolina
On May 5, 1917, after the U.S. declaration of war
against Germany, Griffin enlisted in the Navy. “I had
a surge of instant patriotism,” he later wrote. “…I
was sent to ‘boot camp’ at the Naval Training Station
at Newport, Rhode Island.” He recalled a sign in a
downtown park in the wealthy resort town: “Dogs and
sailors keep off the grass!”
Drawing by Herman Van Dyk
In the autumn of 1916, Columbia, South Carolina
was far removed from the events of the Great War in
Europe. Earlier that year the South Carolina militia
had mustered and been shipped out – for the Mexican
border, where they were stationed to guard against
further depredations by “Pancho” Villa, so Fair Week
lacked even the traditional military drill competition.
And at the State Fair, James Franklin Griffin saw his
first dirigible:
“Instead of an enclosed nacelle (car), the first one had
just a frame-work for the ‘pilot’ to walk backwards or
forwards to keep the bag on an even keel – it had no
stabilizers. It did have a small motor and propeller.
It carried water ballast that was sprayed out for the
bag to ascend. It had a self-closing valve with cord to
the ‘bag’ so that the hydrogen gas could be expelled
to make it descend. The man who flew that thing
was certainly a pioneer and was either senseless or
extremely brave.”
The 23-year old Griffin had enlisted as a Yeoman.
Though classified a “landsman”, he expressed his pride
in his new service in a traditional seafarer’s manner,
with a tattoo on his right deltoid depicting an eagle
with the legend “USN”. At the conclusion of his basic
training, this fledgling eagle linked his own fate with
that of American naval aviation:
“It was a happy day when I was chosen upon
graduation from the training station to be sent with
a small contingent to London after being transferred
to the new Naval Air Corps. “
(continues on page 20)
Griffin and his fellows headed for Europe aboard
the American Line steamer Philadelphia. On board,
the contingent of aviation personnel were regarded
dubiously by some of the regular service sailors.
One Lieutenant Commander challenged a “crummy
looking” seaman he saw reading book titled (as Griffin
later recalled) “Aerodynamics and Aerology for the
Advanced Student:”
April of 1918 found him attached to US Naval Aviation
Headquarters in London; in May he moved to the air
station at Dunkerque, France, to help McAdie open an
aerographic office to support the proposed Northern
Bombing Squadron which would employ heavierthan-air day and night bombers against German
naval targets. A few days after his transfer, he formally
applied to have his rating changed from Yeoman 2/C to
Quartermaster (Aviation) 1/C, explaining:
“Get up from there, you gold-bricking dumbbell
– and stop faking, reading something
you couldn’t possibly understand!”
“I have studied and have been trained under
Lieutenant Commander McAdie for Aerography and
Meterological work and am to be sent to one of the
Meteorological huts at one of our Aviation Stations
for further training to be familiar with the work at
the Stations.”
Griffin remembered hearing the officer shout. The
reader came to attention, saluted smartly, and then
explained that this was his first chance to look the book
over since its publication – he had written it.
Professor McAdie, impatient with military bureaucracy
or oblivious to it, began referring to Griffin (even
in official correspondence) as “Quartermaster 1/C,”
although his official rating change would not occur
for some months – and his pay would not reflect his
increased responsibilities. Still, McAdie’s intervention
did secure flying orders for him, “as a regular part
of his aerographic work.” Griffin became part-time
flight crew, and was awarded the single-wing insignia
of a gunner-observer.
The book was more likely “The Principles of
Aerography,” and its author was Professor Alexander
McAdie – the director of Blue Hill Observatory at
Harvard University, a renowned meteorologist who
had decided to lend his formidable scientific talents to
the Navy for the duration of the Great War. McAdie
had been promoted to Lieutenant Commander himself
early in 1918, and tasked with developing a Naval
Aerological organization. He would play an important
role in Griffin’s ensuing adventures.
Three U.S. Navy airships at Paimboeuf in 1918.
McAdie had been training aerographers for the Navy;
like other non-commissioned aviation personnel of the
fleet, these men were rated “Quartermaster”. Griffin,
however, while attached to the “Aerography subsection”
of “Office of Operations”, was rated a Yeoman.
However, he quickly found his way into aviation duties
well outside his clerical job description.
AT.1 inside the Paimboeuf hangar which became a
U.S. Naval airship station in March 1918.
Aerography duties or not, Griffin was still flying over
contested airspace, and sometime in late May or early
June, he was “wounded inaction against the enemy,”
as his discharge certificate tersely notes. He left no
record of the circumstances of his wound, but this
action apparently occurred in a heavier-than-air
craft. McAdie was a proponent of daily high-altitude
observation of meteorological conditions, and by this
time, Griffin had probably participated in aerographic
missions in both airplanes and dirigibles. Shortly
afterward, Griffin began flying from Paimboeuf Naval
Air Station.
“The brave act that you performed by climbing out
and up on the small cables and guy wires while the
balloon (sic) was at an altitude of approximately
2500 feet and closing the gas valve that was stuck
open and was causing the gas bag to settle fast
thereby saving the lives of two of our officers and
the French crew of nine men….was beyond the call
of duty and you rightly deserve the honor of being
among the first few men decorated with the French
Croix de Guerre in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.”
Griffin continued to fly through the rest of the First World
War, recording his various stations and airships with
pen and ink on his leather flight helmet, which would
become a treasured souvenir of his service. He tired
of awaiting his coveted “Quartermaster: Aviation 1/C”
rating, testing successfully for an interim promotion to
Yeoman 1/C in the summer of 1918. He took photos
of the hangers at Paimboeuf and the airships there, and
was present for the visit of Assistant Secretary of the
Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was taken on a
flight on one of the Navy’s airships during his August
1918 visit. [See photo, next page.] After the end of
the war, Griffin would be promoted again and have
his rating changed, at last leaving service as a Chief
Quartermaster (Aviation) in March, 1919.
Participating in flights from Paimboeuf with French
airmen, Griffin became part of a very successful and
little-known strategic employment of LTA craft. While
Germany’s rigid airships of WWI have been the focus
of much attention over the years, the employment of
both rigids and non-rigids (“blimps”) by the Allies in
antisubmarine warfare has been largely ignored. In
actuality, both in numbers (over 200 for the British
navy alone) and in strategic effects, the Allied airships
may have been more important to the course of the
First World War.
His return to Columbia and civilian life was
anticlimactic. “I remember in 1919, after we had
done our bit overseas during WWI, Bill Rose, (Judge)
Legare Bates and I went into the same store to buy
our first suit of ‘civvies’ – all three bought the same
type suit with wide pointed lapel – and all three were a
‘billious green’ color!...I also remember I had to wear
my uniform for several weeks after my discharge and
until I could sell the uniform and have enough money
to buy a suit of clothes!”
Anti-submarine patrols were not at risk from German
fighter planes, but these vital duties had their own
perils, as Griffin would soon learn. During a June 1918
flight from Paimboeuf aboard the French airship AT15, Griffin was acting as altitude pilot. (These craft
had two designated “pilots”, one controlling ascent
and the other, steering.) A mechanical malfunction
caused a crisis aboard, and Griffin quickly displayed
both courage and quick-wittedness in response.
He retained, however, the flight helmet, his gunner/
observers’ insignia, and a scrapbook of images of
Paimboeuf Naval Air Station, its airships and sailors
– a priceless legacy of LTA Naval Aviation in the First
World War. In 2006, these items were donated to South
Carolina’s official military museum, the Confederate
Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, South
Carolina, Griffin’s home town, where they have been
featured in the exhibit “South Carolina Fights the Great
War” and will be preserved for future generations.
As his letter of congratulations from USN Aviation
Headquarters stated,
(continues on page 23)
(continued from page 21)
John S. Gibbens Scrapbook
Griffin himself went on to a long and successful
real estate career in Columbia, as well as writing a
newspaper column and pursuing his lifelong interest in
horticulture (he was president of the Camellia Society
and editor of its journal). A deacon at Eastminster
Presbyterian Church, he lived until 1971, publishing a
book of his memories of local history before he died.
He took no active part in the Second World War, but
the antisubmarine successes of the Paimboeuf airships
were remembered by the Navy planners who employed
LTA craft again against the U-Boat menace of the
1940’s. Ω
NAA member Roy Gibbens’ father also served in
Europe in the Great War. His base operated HTA and
LTA. Roy has been so kind as to also share his Dad’s
tiny snapshots and 1930’s glossies. The photo below
shows two types of airships escorting a troopship. After
the Great War, John belonged to the “War Birds,” an
organization that has vanished save the photos below
– and their signed helmets. If you have any information
please contact Roy Gibbens. Ω
Ed. notes: Too bad the pre-polio FDR (seen in the
airship car in the photo above) did not develop an
appreciation, or even an understanding of airships in
the anti-submarine war. Later as President he wrote
that he would veto any large rigid airship such as
“…the ill-fated Los Angeles” which was of course
our most successful rigid. As Commander in Chief he
oversaw the War Production Board’s refusal to assign
airship manufacture anything more than the lowest
possible priority, 4. Even materials for the prototype
M-ship – which was being designed and built at the
same time – had to be taken from Goodyear’s regular
allocations. Ω
USN LTA in WWI France
extremity of the French navy yard and consisted of
both a seaplane base and a kite balloon station... La
Trinite-sur-Mer was a kite balloon station for the
supply of kite balloons to patrol vessels covering
the sector from the Bay of Quiberon down to La
Pallice. It was situated at the small fishing village
of La Trinite-sur-Mer on an inlet in the Bay of
Morbihan, 6 miles distant from La Trinite, the
nearest railroad station. Construction of this station
was begun about the middle of March, 1918, and
was ready for operations two months before the
cessation of hostilities. The first kite balloon did
not arrive at the station, however, until October
18, and it was the 8th of November before the
second balloon arrived. Hence this station had
very little opportunity to participate in active war
By R. G. Van Treuren
Washington Navy Yard’s History reads “…
Meantime, graduates of the Akron school received
duty assignments both at home and abroad. Some
went to Rockaway, others to Montauk and Key West
and some to the French station at Pamboeuf, which
the Navy took over from the French along with
three French ‘AT’ dirigibles. The Navy projected
the establishment of additional LTA stations along
the Bay of Biscay, but none were completed by the
time of the Armistice.
“In the course of their normal operations, airship
pilots ran up a notable record in the protection of
convoys and in patrols designed to detect incursions
by enemy submarines, Operating from the
Paimboeuf station an airship piloted by Lt. Culbert
established a world record in a sustained patrol of
more than 25 hours, during which he escorted three
convoys into French ports. On another occasion,
credit was given Merrill Delano for the detection
of an enemy submarine preying on a large convoy
in the Bay of Biscay. Delano successfully guided a
destroyer in an attack on the invader.”
The first real American patrol flight was made on 16
APR 18 and lasted six hours. Nothing was seen until
a big thrill on the 5th of April, a British submarine
in distress. SSZ-23 intercepted a destroyer and lead
her to the sinking sub. The rest of April allowed
little flying with its poor weather.
As the Germans were driven back across Belgium,
the Americans at England’s Howden were dispersed
to other European bases. LT Pope wound up at
Kingsnorth, ENS Frazer at Mullion, with LTJG
Baehr, ENS Piper and LT Goodspeed crossing to
France at Paimboeuf. The property at Rochefort,
ceded to the United States Navy for a dirigible
station, was given back to the French government
at its request in order to make room for dirigible
hangars and workshops that were moved out of Paris
by reason of the German offensive in March, 1918.
The American station at this point was therefore
Paimboeuf became a US Naval Air Station on the
first of March as the Americans took custody of
the AT-1. Flying the AT-1, LT F. P. Culbert logged
working three successive convoys for a flight of
25 hours and 43 minutes. The 1930 history reads,
“Paimboeuf was a dirigible station which was
originally constructed and operated by the French
and was transferred to the United States Navy for
manning and operation on March 1, 1918. The
station was located near the city of Paimboeuf
and its purpose was to supplement the patrols and
escorts in the vicinity of the mouth of the Loire
River and to give protection to troop ships. One
dirigible, the Astra Torres (AT-1), was turned over
to the Americans at the same time that the station
was transferred and a second dirigible, the Zodiac
Vedette (VZ-3), was obtained from the French on
March 20. Three other dirigibles were obtained from
the French Navy, the VZ-7 on June 8, the AT-13 on
August 30, and the VZ-13 on the 25th of October.
The AT-1 and the VZ-3 became unserviceable for
further patrol work in September, 1918, and the
former was deflated and sent to the United States
while the latter was returned to the French Navy at
Rochefort.” Another source verifies the US acquired
five French airships in all; two Astra-Torres and
three Zodiac-Vedetts following the USN taking
command at Paimboeuf. It is recorded ASW flights
in the Bay of Biscay involved escort with only an
occasional sub sighting.
According to the 1930 history, “The United States
Naval Air Station, Brest, was located in the western
On 3 March 18 the AT-1 made its first flight under
the Stars and Stripes. The commanding officer of
the Arcachon station was LT Zeno W. Wicks, who
worked for Goodyear-Zeppelin after the war.
On 22 April the SSZ-30 under Lieutenant D. G.
Heady spotted an oil streak seven miles south of
Brighton. Oil bubbles were rising and advancing
in a continual line from 0525 until 0710, when
the airship pilot bombed the target. Oil quantity
increased for five minutes, and then ceased. The
1908 French sub Prairial was sunk in collision
with British ship SS Tropic off Le Havre on the
29th of April.
Guipavas was a dirigible station located in the
Province of Finistere. The first United States Navy
personnel arrived at this station on March 10,
1918, and although construction work was begun
immediately an insufficient number of men and lack
of material prevented completion of same before
the armistice, and it never actually operated.
E. M. Emme, NASA Historian, “AERONAUTICS
AND ASTRONAUTICS: An American Chronology
of Science and Technology in the Exploration of
Space,” (US Gov’t Printing Office, 1961) states
that on “April 27, 1918, French built airship AT-1,
commanded by Lt. F. P. Culbert, USN, completed a
25-hour 23 minute flight out of Paimboeuf, France,
longest flight on record for an airship of this type.”
The crew, which included ENSs M. P. Delano, A.
D. Brewer and T. E. McCracken, was officially
commended by the French Minister of Marine.
This record was nothing short of phenomenal
when compared with airplanes of the day, which
routinely killed pilots as their sewn-on fabric
covering peeled off, or caught fire, or whose wood
was incinerated from ignition of the gasoline and
oil. Their very structures could rot and break even
during the mercifully short patrol flights relatively
short distances from the shore bases. Ω
In April a periscope wake was sighted about 30
miles east of Kingstown by Lieutenant A. J. O.
Farina and the SSZ-34 from an altitude of 400 feet.
A 100 lb. bomb was dropped and appeared to impact
metal, based on what the crew heard. However, the
bomb failed to explode. A 230 lb. bomb was then
dropped. The blast wave is claimed to have forced
the airship from 1,200 feet to 2,000 feet. Thick fog
was increasing and the crew was unable to locate
wreckage after they descended again.
On April 18th, the French Capitaine Caussin (T2) was flown from Paris to Paimboeuf. A twinengine airship of approximately 335,000 cubic feet
volume, it was to be used for training US Navy
crews at Paimboeuf and Guipavas. On 25 April,
after losing pressure due to a stuck
hydrogen valve, T-2 struck the water and two men
were thrown into the sea. CDR Lewis Maxfield
jumped into the water and swam to the rescue of
the two men as the T-2 drifted ashore. Maxfield
was recommended for a gold life-saving medal;
T-2 was ripped, then shipped back for repairs.
(Below: A French airship looks for submarines.)
The last sub-section involves blimps, U.S. Navy then
Goodyear and others. Some of the Navy Blimp footage was
new to me. Perhaps I am not as well-versed as I think? You
will be pleased to learn that Blimps were assigned to Pearl
THE ZEPPLIN DVD comes in a standard plastic carrier.
The photo on the back is captioned, “USS Akron leaving
the Goodyear Airdock, Akron, Ohio circa 1931.” It is a
Margaret Bourke-White photo of Akron’s first time out of
the Airdock. The photo on the front is captioned, “COVER:
LZ 129 Hindenburg cruises over Manhattan during its
transatlantic journey from Frankfort Germany May 6, 1937.”
The Hindenburg is apparently ascending at such an angle as
to spill every drink in the smoking room, the lower fin is
gnarled, and the Olympic rings (1936) are visible on the side.
It looks like Photoshop® to me.
I recommend the DVD. Buy it for the unique footage and
for the editing of the familiar footage. Look for errors in the
dialogue for your own amusement.
The 2008 copyright holder is Allegro Corporation at or Historic Aviation can be reached
at 1-800-225-5575. Ω
History of the World’s Greatest Airships
A review by C.P. Hall II
Recently this subject title popped up as a new offering
in the “Historic Aviation” catalog. As my curiosity is always
piqued by such a title, I offered to review it for “Noon
Balloon.” These are my thoughts.
THE ZEPPELIN was manufactured in Germany about
10 years ago. It seems to have gone through several corporate
hands since then. The narrator is identified as Jeremy Anthony
who has one of those light, pleasant, understandable for the
American audience, English accents. If it was not for the
occasional word, example “aluminium” (sic) one might be
fooled into believing Midwest, Northern Ohio.
Though Jeremy’s voice is ‘easy listening’ the dialog that
he reads is not. One begins at Lake Constance, the home
of Zeppelin with early footage of an NT inflated model,
wind tunnel footage, and an early trial flight. Next comes
digression to the Montgolfiers brothers and ‘history.’ As
word spreads from one “historic DVD producer” to the next;
the mis-statement, that 19th century balloons were ‘hot air’
balloons, is repeated over and over; thus becoming ‘revealed
The general problem with the dialogue is a lack of
chronological coherence. Either one undertakes history in
chronological order, or one proceeds topic by topic creating
order within the topic sub-divisions. Beyond chronology,
there are numerous errors of fact that will amuse and/or
enrage the knowledgeable listener. Is everyone in this
business too cheap to have someone who knows something
about the topic proof-read their script?
The good news is the film editing and content for which
someone deserves an award. With the exceptions of Zeppelin
NT footage at the beginning and the CargoLifter® computer
animation at the end, the experienced LTA buff will recognize
most of the film footage and know from whence it came.
The DVD’s back cover even offers a disclaimer, “The use
of genuine wartime imagery will not produce the visual
quality expected of modern technology.” The truth is that
most of the vintage footage is black & white and in excellent
condition. It is well edited and, for the most part, in smooth
long sections. While a great deal may be familiar, there are
some interesting, early sound newsreel footage which I
found unique. For example the R101 sub-division includes
R101 leaving the Cardington Tower; it says October 4, 1930.
Later there is newsreel footage of an interview with George
Darling, the first Englishman to arrive at the R101 crash
site. He describes the action including finding Church and
sending him to the hospital. Three survivors, Leech, Bell,
and Binks (unnamed in newsreel) are interviewed but only
speak of being well-treated in Beauvais.
Several members of the History Committee have been working
with the Spiegel TV Media GmbH crew of Robert Wortmann
on their work-in-progress USS Macon TV show. The producer
e-mailed, “I returned yesterday from my journey to the
United States. I think we were quite successful. We made
interviews with Gerald Austen, Eric Brothers, Gordon
Vaeth and William Althoff, we shot pictures in Akron and
in Moss Landing with the people of the MBARI.
In August we are shooting the reenactments scenes in
Prague. [Ed.: They are building a re-creation of the control
car from plans and drawings we’d obtained from the NARA,
and have promised photos of the set.] Are you familiar with
the commands the Navy people used in the control car? I just
want to be as precise as possible.”
Ed.: We were not able to guess what was said but happily the
first person interviewed for the project was William Clarke,
the last surviving rigid airshipman, who was at the rudder
wheel that fateful night. Ω
Several members of the History Committee answered
questions and performed some research in support of a PBS
show called “History’s Detectives.” The segment was about,
what else, the Hindenburg, in particular the question of
artifact authenticity. The show actually traveled to Lakehurst
and interviewed Rick Zitarosa. Your Editor got screen credit
though they did not use any of the photos submitted showing
the instrument was not visible on the LZ-129 bridge in 1936.
The segment aired on July 28th. As of this writing another
British TV show maker has expressed an interest in the use of
airships against U-boats (see “Editorial” page 3.) Ω
(Zero Emissions Transport Airship)
Airship Competition Proposal
Why offer an airship competition?
No cargo airships currently exist
Business risks for initial development are non-trivial
Optimum design and critical technologies have yet to be defined
Airship design and development expertise remains decentralized
Need to create critical mass of airship development capability
Prizes promote an efficient investment strategy
– Sponsors pay winners when and if goal is achieved
– Performance-based investment, not “best effort”
– Competitors invest their own resources on tech development
Prizes stimulate innovation
– Competitors develop unexpected and unconventional concepts
– Multiple technological approaches are developed
– Competition produces one or more workable technologies
Prizes inspire advancement
– Prizes shift expectations from “can it be done” to “when will it be done”
– Reshape markets more rapidly than prevailing market forces
An airship technology development prize provides the motivation for
teams to compete in the development of modern cargo airships to
meet growing needs
Antarctic Ballooning Hits Milestone
Washington (UPI) The U.S. National Science Foundation
reached a milestone in scientific ballooning by launching
three Antarctica flights in a single summer. The milestone
was reached in collaboration with National Aeronautics
and Space Administration, NSF said Friday in a release.
Scientists from the United States, Japan, South Korea,
France and other countries are using the long-duration
sub-orbital flights to investigate the nature of ultra-highenergy cosmic rays and searching for anti-matter as air
currents that circle Antarctica carry the balloons and their
instruments at the edge of space, NSF said.
Why Zero Emissions?
ƒ International demand is increasing for dramatic reductions in aviation
carbon emissions
ƒ Airships can provide an environmentally friendly alternative to
conventional cargo transport technologies
– Due to the airship’s low propulsion requirements, non-petroleum
propulsion can be effectively used
Airships can accommodate alternative fuels (like ethanol and hydrogen)
Large surface area easily accommodates photovoltaic collectors
Advanced airships could be powered by fuel cells and electric motors
Airship propulsion systems can be made to emit no greenhouse gasses
ƒ Airships offer an early opportunity to develop zero emissions
technologies that can be adapted to other types of aircraft
ƒ Incorporation of zero emissions transport airships into air transport
fleet would lower air transport fleet carbon emission average
Joint NASA/AeroVironment hydrogen propulsion program
The report said unique atmospheric circulation over
Antarctica during the Southern Hemisphere summer allows
scientists to launch balloons from a site near McMurdo
Station and recover them from nearly the same spot weeks
later, after the balloons have circled the continent.
Antarctic flights are of a long duration because of the
polar vortex and because there is very little atmospheric
or temperature change. Constant daylight in Antarctica
means no day-to-night temperature fluctuations, which
helps the balloon stay at a nearly constant altitude for a
longer time.
Overall goal: To stimulate the development of practical
and economical transport airships that can meet user
ƒ Primary goals of the Z-Prize include:
Creation of at least one airship that provides affordable, reliable heavy lift
Demonstration of practical “low-to-no” carbon dioxide emission air
Establishment of at least one sustainable transport airship developer
Creation of a new aviation technology sector
Provides new opportunities for current and future aerospace workers
ƒ Secondary goals include:
The three balloons will ride the stratospheric winds in the
polar vortex above the Antarctic continent for up to six
weeks. Ω
Utilize airship competition to advance zero emissions propulsion for all
types of aircraft
Encourage non-aviation disciplines to participate in airship prize efforts
Exploit airship competition to advance non-aerospace, zero emissions
Reinvigorate public excitement in aerospace
Ed. take: At least the Texas helium is used for a few weeks
before being trashed, as opposed to the usual practice of
millions of cu.ft. discarded for unmanned, short-duration
flights over sparsely populated remote regions of the
Ed.: Ideas are welcome as the proposal matures.
Remote-Controlled Blimp Doing
Rounds Of Prairie Towns
Why Fly When You Can Float?
(via Al Robbins)
Selected Media excerpts abuzz about NT and LTA
John Tagliabue wrote, “Imagine gliding in a floating
hotel over the Serengeti, gazing down at herds of zebra or
elephants; or floating over Paris as the sun sets and lights
blink on across the city as you pass the Eiffel Tower. A
New Age for Dirigibles. Such flights of fancy may one
day be possible, if the dream of Jean-Marie Massaud, a
French architect, comes true. As the cost of fuel soars and
the pressure mounts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,
several schemes for a new generation of airship are being
considered by governments and private companies. “It’s
a romantic project,” said Mr. Massaud, 45, sitting amid
furniture designs in his Paris studio, “but then look at
Jules Verne.” [Obligatory LZ-129 fire] But because of
new materials and sophisticated means of propulsion, a
diverse cast of entrepreneurs is taking another look at the
behemoths of the air… In Germany, Deutsche ZeppelinReederei, the successor to the operator of the Hindenburg,
has had success with a new generation of airship it uses
to transport sightseers and scientific payloads. The trend
is not entirely new. Zeppelin-Reederei carried 12,000
passengers on sightseeing tours over southern Germany last
year. Aerophile, a French company that revived tethered
balloons, which compete with dirigibles as carriers of
passengers, advertising and scientific instruments, was
founded by two young French engineers in 1993… “A
dirigible is something magical,” said Jérôme Giacomoni,
who was 25 when he founded Aerophile with a friend.
“But most of the ideas are crazy…” Thomas Brandt, the
chief executive of Zeppelin-Reederei and its parent, ZLT
Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik, in Friedrichshafen, Germany,
jeers at the notion of airships as hotels or freighters.
“Illusions,” he said. “Airships are unstable, they depend on
the weather, so we fly today from March to November.’”
The mini-blimp is visiting 18 communities in
Saskatchewan, eight in Alberta and four in Manitoba.
The airship is a quarter-scale model - about 10.6 metres
long and 2.8 metres in diameter - of an actual blimp. The
remote-controlled craft can travel at about 80 km/h.
“It takes off like a helicopter, flies like an airplane and
lands like a helicopter,” says Barkley, president and owner
of Lac La Biche-based Remote Air Tripods (RATS) Inc.,
which has been contracted by Syngenta to operate the tour.
“So it takes off vertically, flies forward and lands vertically.
“In each locale, Barkley and two other crew members
guide it through acrobatic displays, including nosedives,
hoverings and vertical takeoffs - weather permitting.
“We stay on the ground,” he adds. “We’re pilots with a
very tall view, if you will. We have a camera system on
it, so it allows us to see exactly what the airship is looking
at. The clients or the interested party will stand beside us
and we’ll take a photograph, either of them or of their real
estate, as they see fit. “ Barkley’s internet-based firm builds
blimps for people around the world and demonstrates how
to fly them. Ω
Scott Deveau wrote, “Boeing Co. will unveil a new
partnership today with a little-known Alberta company
aimed at developing a state-of-the-art airship, which
it hopes will provide a fuel-efficient and relatively
inexpensive alternative for lifting heavy cargo to remote
oil and gas sites in the Arctic and Alaska… Certainly,
heavy-lift “helicrafts” are not a new idea, with aviation
history littered with such failed attempts as the Piasecki
Heli-Stat in the 1980s. However, two factors appear to
be working to make short-haul, heavy-lift airships more
feasible these days -- and they both involve the soaring
price of oil. Not only has this spurred exploration into
increasingly more remote areas, but it has also made
the helicopters that bring supplies there more costly
to operate. Barry Prentice, a professor of supply chain
management at the University of Manitoba, estimates
there is a demand for at least 90 airships in Canada by
2015. However, in a high-demand scenario, where the
forestry sector and other resource exploration firms hop
on board too, that number could jump to over 700. “The
fact that Boeing is involved is fantastic news,” he said.
“What we need is proper engineering and design, and
to come up with a safe ship. We also, in fact, need their
deep pockets to certify it.” While helicopters use up to
half their fuel just lifting their own weight, airships use
helium to lift the structure and only use their fuel to lift
the cargo… JHL-40 would hit the market as soon as it
receives certification from Transport Canada and the U.
S. Federal Aviation Administration.”
George Monbiot wrote, “This means that if hydrogen
planes are to fly commercially, they need much wider
bodies than ordinary jetliners… But there is another
use for this gas, though I am aware that it will go down
like a lead balloon with most of my readers. The word
airship elicits a fixed reaction in almost everyone who
hears it: “What about the Hindenburg?” It’s as if, every
time someone proposed traveling on a cruise ship, you
were to ask: “But what about the Titanic?” Yes, there was
a spectacular disaster - 71 years ago. It has lodged in
our minds because, like the Titanic, the Hindenburg was
bigger and plusher than any craft built before it, and it was
carrying rich and prominent people. The conflagration
was witnessed by journalists and broadcast all over the
world. It also became the technology’s funeral pyre: the
Hindenburg was doomed long before it burnt, as airships
were already being displaced by aeroplanes…But they
have one major advantage: the environmental cost could
be reduced almost to zero. Even when burning fossil
fuels, the total climate-changing impact of an airship,
according to researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate
Change Research, is 80% to 90% smaller than that of
ordinary aircraft. But the airship is also the only form
of transport that can easily store hydrogen: you could
inflate a hydrogen bladder inside the helium balloon.
There might be a neat synergy here: one of the problems
with airships is that they become lighter, and therefore
harder to control, as the fuel is consumed. In this case
they become heavier. Michael Stewart of the company
World SkyCat suggests burning both gaseous and liquid
hydrogen to keep the weight of the craft constant… If
they were powered by hydrogen fuel cells, they would
be almost silent, greatly reducing the effects for people
on the ground. Though they are much slower than jets,
the cabin can be built much wider, which means that
traveling by airship would be rather like traveling by
cruise ship, but at twice the speed and using a fraction
of the fuel. There are four small companies trying to
get airships off the ground. Most of the new designs
make use of aerodynamic lift as well as buoyancy (they
are shaped like fat planes with stubby wings or tails),
which means they are heavier and more stable than the
old dirigibles and can land without help on the ground.
They can alight on and take off from almost any flattish
surface, including water. But all of them have a problem
with flotation - of the financial rather than the physical
kind. While the price of carbon stays low, companies
have no financial incentive to switch to a different form
of transport. The only help governments are prepared
to provide is some development funds for military
applications: raising money for killing people is always
easier than raising money to save them… Airships are
one of several green technologies that might be killed by
a shortage of materials. A new generation of solar panels
relies on gallium and indium, whose global supplies
appear close to exhaustion. The price of platinum, which
is used in catalytic converters, has tripled over the past
five years. Beyond a few natural gasfields in Texas,
economically viable supplies of helium are rare; even
there they might be exhausted in 50 years at current rates
of use, or much faster if airships take off. If there is a
God, he isn’t green.”
In the Summer of 2008 “Stella Artois: Star Over London”
takes to the skies, offering over 1500 intrepid passengers
the experience of a lifetime. Stella Artois: Star Over
London is a unique, timeless and memorable experience
by providing an unrivalled birds eye views of the city on
three different routes: (“L’Étranger” 30mins, “L’Origine”
45mins and “Le Courage” 1 hour duration) and will be
airborne from 10th July - 21st August. On boarding the
airship you will be amongst a very limited number of
pioneering guests to take this unprecedented airborne
journey over London’s iconic landmarks. Ω
Zeppelins To Fly Again Over New Jersey?
The German company, Zeppelin NT airships, that earlier
this month announced its airship would in July begin
Zeppelin air tours over London, Thursday announced that
“the U.S. market is opened for the Zeppelin NT.” While
something may have been lost in translation, “the type
certification for the Zeppelin NT has been successfully
completed,” according to ZLT Zeppelin, which provides
a basis for the start of Zeppelin NT operations in the U.S.
Airship Ventures (also involved in the Zeppelin air tours
in London) is planning to expand its fleet in the U.S.,
seeing a market for a “further two or three” airships. While
concerned citizens may not be relaxed by the wording
that “the Zeppelin NT has already conquered Germany
and Japan,” the statement refers to the airship’s ability
to perform as a passenger carrier as well as providing
service in “various special missions” in those markets.
at 1,000 feet and certainly not over a wide geographic
area,’’ he says. “This is another dimension.” On behalf of
NASA/Ames, Zornetzer has been working since 1996 to
find the right tenants for the sprawling 2,000-acre research
center, which includes Moffett Field, decommissioned by
the Navy in 1994…”Airship Ventures was an interesting
opportunity,’’ he says. He calls the zeppelin a “platform
of opportunity” that would allow NASA to mount
instruments to collect data on temperature changes,
humidity, cloud observations and fog. We could find out
how much pollution is produced in the Bay Area and how
much is coming from China,” he says. “It’s in all our best
interests and the beauty of the partnership is that we’re
getting the platform for free.”
Hall couldn’t be happier that negotiations for the hangar
are going well, though they are not quite complete. She’s
not concerned though; there’s plenty of time. While she
hopes the airship arrives this fall, if the weather is not
amenable to an Atlantic crossing the dirigible may not
get here until spring 2009. But Hall is certain it will
arrive and hopes its new home will be Hangar Two, built
in the early 1930s to house dirigibles. “I think if the
community is really looking for a simpatico use, this is
it,” she says. “This is a massive piece of real estate crying
out for sympathetic reuse.”
Better weather led zeppelin backers to Moffett Field
Katherine Conrad, Dennis G. Hendricks wrote,
“Alexandra Hall stands in the historic Hangar Two at
NASA Research Park at Moffett Field in Mountain View.
Built to hold dirigibles, the hangar could soon house a
new lighter-than-air vessel, now being built in Germany
for Hall’s Airship Ventures. NASA also could benefit from
atmospheric research data gathered by the aircraft on its
flights. Moffett Field’s Hangar Two has a tenant lined up
that not only harkens back to its historic roots but also
will give scientists a new way to collect data. If all goes
well, the Zeppelin NT, a dirigible under construction in
Germany, will occupy the 322,500-square-foot hangar
in October, says Alexandra Hall, who founded Airship
Ventures with her husband, Bryan Hall, in 2007.
So far the only opposition Airship Ventures has
encountered is some residents voicing concerns that
allowing commercial aviation at Moffett Field opens
the door to other business ventures, such as FedEx or
even Southwest Airlines, that involve noisy air traffic.
Hall says that is simply not the case. For one thing, the
dirigible is extremely quiet. For another, the 250-footlong vessel -- one of only three that size in the world -can carry only a dozen passengers at a time…Hall, who
is the author of “Black Holes and Other Space Oddities,”
is passionate about traveling by dirigible and convinced
it can be profitable -- despite the high costs. Bringing
the dirigible to the United States will cost Airship
Ventures about $24 million, with 70 percent going to
build the airship and transport it here. The plan calls for
transporting it by ship to Galveston, Texas, then flying it
to the Bay Area. Once its here, the Halls have promised
to take several safety steps to prevent fires in the wooden
hangar, which has no fire-suppression equipment because
of its size and the high cost. Not only must all the fuel
that powers its motors be removed before the airship is
stored in the hangar, but a guard must be on duty at all
times... offering flights on an airship to tourists who stay
in the hotel is the ideal way to respect the history of the
site, and create a profitable business venture.” Ω
The couple, who have been working on the endeavor
for two years, plan to offer tourist excursions on the 12passenger airship. They became familiar with dirigible
operations in Germany, where airships can fly only part
of the year because of nasty weather. “The bold fact
is that the business is already proven and profitable in
Germany where they can’t fly the entire year,” says Hall,
who as Alexandra Barnett ran the Chabot Space and
Science Center in Oakland. “We have 16 million tourists
a year coming to the Bay Area. Why not move it here
where it’s a better market?” Where the Halls see dollar
signs, directors at the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration/Ames see data. For Steven Zornetzer,
associate center director at Ames, the dirigible represents
an opportunity for scientific exploration -- specifically,
collecting atmospheric data that NASA now is unable to
obtain. “We have stationary instruments located on the
ground and others on high-flying satellites, but nothing
Black Blimp
in Gaithersburg to specialize in Naval Warfare studies.
Ben was a long-time member of the Naval Airship
Association. He served on the Executive Council and
the History and Membership Committees. Ben is
survived by his daughter Paula and son, Martin and four
grandchildren. Ben’s wife, Gerry, (for over 60 years)
died a few years ago. Ben was buried at the Parklawn
Menorah Gardens, Rockville, MD. Ω
Robert H. Killion, 92, of Thousand Oaks, Cailf., passed
on May 18, 2008 following a fall in which he broke his
back. He is survived by his wife Beverly. Ω
ZP-51 just prior
to becoming
the first LTA
squadron to
deploy overseas
Bill Voda
donated this
Ben B. Levitt, (above) 85, of Gaithersburg, MD passed
on Monday, 23 June, 2008. He was born in 1923, entered
the U.S. Naval Academy immediately after high school
and graduated in 1943. He applied for lighter-than-air
duty and served in several squadrons including ZP-11
and ZP-14. Squadron ZP- 14 was transferred to Port
Lyautey in French Morroco initially to guard against
German submarines operating in the Mediterranean
and later for locating mines. This was accomplished
by flying six K-ships across the Atlantic in flights of
two in June 1944. Navigators (including Ben) on these
58 hr., 3,145 mile flights were chosen from Academy
graduates because of their training in the subject. The
flights originated at NAS South Weymouth, then to
Argentia, New Foundland, the Azores, and terminated
at Pt. Lyautey. It was the first time nonrigid airships
had flown the Atlantic. Ben was a crew member on a
170 hr. flight on the XM-1 airship in October, 1946. In
May 1954 he participated in a record-making 200.2 hr.
ZPG-2 flight over part of the Atlantic from Nova Scotia
to Florida in May 1954. He was awarded the Air Medal
for his participation. Ben took heavier-than-air flight
training and flew combat missions in Korea. Following
this, he returned to lighter-than-air duty. During a tour
in Washington, he served in the Air Branch of the Office
of Naval Research.
William Voda passed on April 15, 2006. Membership
chairman Fred Morin discovered his passing when a
BBC crew expressed an interest in interviewing the
ZP-51 veteran. Bill was the ordinanceman manning the
K-68’s machine gun as they circled the U-615. He is
survived by his wife, who declined an ‘H’ membership.
Ralph Waldron, Sr. (above) 82, passed on October 28,
2006. Ralph graduated from Salem High School in
1942. Joining the US Navy he served as an aviation
metalsmith with ZP-21 in Cuba. He is survived by his
wife of 58 years, Mary; three daughters, and son Ralph
Waldron, Jr., an engineer working on aerostats at the
Lockheed-Martin Airdock. Ω
While still in the Navy, he attended Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute and received a Masters degree
in Aeronautical Engineering. After retiring, he was
employed by Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory. In the
early 1970’s, he formed the Summit Research Corp.
� �� ��� � � �
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Join us in exploring a little publicized, but vital part of
20th Century Naval Aviation. In WW II the infamous
K-type airship provided coverage for convoys heading
across the treacherous N. Atlantic. In fact, K ships also
patrolled the waters of S. America, the Caribbean, the Gulf
of Mexico, and later N. Africa and the Mediterranean.
Their protection rate was perfect. During the Cold War,
Navy airships served as platforms for detection of enemy
missiles and submarine intrusion. Receive our NOON
BALLOON journal with a membership. Contact us at:
Frenchman to cross
Channel in pedal-powered airship
LILLE, France (AFP) - A 39-year-old Frenchman is to
attempt a world first Tuesday, June 10, 2008, by crossing
the Channel on board a pedal-powered airship. Weather
permitting, Stephane Rousson will leave Dungeness
beach in southeastern England at 3:30 am (0230 GMT)
and hopes to reach northern France, 55 kilometres (33
miles) away five hours later.
Gliding 30 metres (100 feet) above water, he intends
to make the crossing in a semi-reclining position under
the 16-metre (52-feet) long airship, steering it with two
propellers on either side of the pedals. An extreme sports
enthusiast and qualified pilot, Rousson said he hoped to
achieve what adventurers had been trying to do for the
past 100 years -- failing each time because the materials
used for the airship were too heavy. He said it took him
four years to prepare for the crossing. In 1979, US cyclist
Brian Allen made the same crossing on board a pedalpowered aeroplane. Ed. Followup: winds were too high
and no attempt has been made at press time. 
CAMBRIDGE, Idaho, July 5, 2008 - Using his trusty
BB gun to help him return to Earth, a 48-year-old gas
station owner flew a lawn chair rigged with 105 heliumfilled balloons more than 200 miles, reaching 13,000 ft.,
across the Oregon desert Saturday, landing in a field in
Idaho. After spilling off some cherry-flavored Kool-Aid
that served as ballast, Couch got a push from the ground
crew so he could clear light poles and soared over a
coffee cart and across U.S. Highway 20 into a bright blue
sky. This was Couch’s third balloon flight. He realized it
would be possible after watching a TV show about the
1982 lawn chair flight over Los Angeles of truck driver
Larry Walters, who gained folk hero fame but was fined
$1,500 for violating air traffic rules. 
4 thru 6 MAY 2009, Pensacola, Florida
All members please note that the Naval Airship Association
will hold its 2009 reunion at the Clarion Inn in Pensacola starting
Monday, May 4 and concluding with a banquet dinner on
Wednesday, May 6. Reunion chairman, Joe Hajcak, is working
out details now and will have reservation information in issue
#79, the fall issue of The Noon Balloon later this year. Joe is
working to keep the costs very affordable, practically the same
as they were at our 2007 reunion at Tom’s River.
Weather permitting, we will have bleacher seats for a Tuesday
air show presented by the Blue Angels. (Rain date for the Blue
Angels is Wednesday). Tuesday and Wednesday will afford
time to visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation. The naval
airship display has been completely reworked with additions of
the front portion of the Snow Bird car and the completed and
restored L-8 car.
Trips to Pensacola Beach, the casino in Bolxie and a car
caravan tour to Battleship Park in Mobile are possible options.
(Above) Zeppelin NT 04 at ground level. Copyright ZLT/Airship Ventures.
(Below) The flying helmet of Altitude Pilot James Franklin Griffin. Joe Long photo.
(Above) Mid 1950’s operations with CVE’s utilized the hose refueling method. Photo Tom Cuthbert
(Below) Artist’s concept of Lockheed-Martin’s High Altitude Airship.
No. 79
Fall 2008
(Above) Artist Conception of proposed hybrid heavy-lift airship from Boeing and Skyhook.
(Below) Tom Cuthbert’s photo showing refueling ops in Cuba mid-1950’s.
USN LTA at Key West
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