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The Death of The Mighty Hindenburg
Hindenburg was a masterpiece of zeppelin design. Equipped with four
1200 hp Mercedes Benz engines, having 245 m in length, about 41 m in diameter
and almost 212000 cubic meters of gas volume, she still holds the record
of the largest airship ever built and flying. She can be truly called
the Titanic of the aircraft.
Although the Hindenburg is most famous for her fiery death, she was not
initially meant to be filled with hydrogen at all. Dr. Hugo Eckner, at
that time the chairman of the Zeppelin company, had decided that it would
be wiser to fill his new ship with the inflammable gas helium. However
the dream was not to come true. Here goes the explanation.
In order to remain afloat, the Zeppelin Company had to accept large sums
of money from the government led at that time by the Nazi Party and Adolf
Hitler. The Hindenburg and the Graf Zeppelin - the two most majestic airships
- carried the swastika signs on their tail fins and participated in many
propaganda shows, flying all over Germany and dropping leaflets and pamphlets
illustrating the power of the Nazi.
The United States, having the only natural deposits of helium in the world,
were getting more and more suspicious of Hitler and his Third Reich. They
wondered if the zeppelin could be used for military purposes such as they
were in WWI. Although the head of the Zeppelin Company never belonged
to the Nazi movement and criticized it, the U.S. Congress came to the
decision that it was impossible to let the Germans have helium for their
new airship. Thus, the Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen. Now that the
grand ship was fully ready to fly, it took off to the sky on March 4,
1936. The tests went well, and the Hindenburg was scheduled to start carrying
passengers across Europe and North and South America.
The LZ129 (the Hindenburg) contained many novelties and was a luxurious
airship. For example, she carried the passengers inside her huge hull
instead of the gondola section, as it was done before. She was also equipped
with a room for smokers, which was astonishing for an airship inflated
with hydrogen. However everything was foreseen: the room was lined with
asbestos and built with an airlock which would keep any flames from spreading
to the rest of the ship. All lighters and matches were removed from the
passengers and kept under lock and key until the end of the flight, and
there was the only lighter fixed on a table in the smokers' room.
The mighty Hindenburg was not a longliver of a zeppelin. She made only
a few breathtaking flights before her destruction. ... It was her first
flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Lakehurst, New Jersey. The airship left
Germany on May 3, 1937, and reached the destination on May 6. There were
96 people on board - 36 passengers and 61 crew-men. It was an impressive
and thrilling sight - an enormous zeppelin floating smoothly across the
sky. A numerous audience was watching the airship at Lakehurst. Suddenly
a tongue of flame embraced the tail and spread with a horrifying speed
all over the zeppelin, turning it into a fire ball. In less than a minute
the giant creature crashed onto the ground. She took the lives of 36 people
- 13 passengers, 22 crew-men, and 1 civilian member of the ground crew.
Nobody knows why it happened. There are many versions: a) sabotage; b)
stroke of lightning; c) carefully planned insurance fraud. Nobody can
tell for sure, but at that time two things were clear - that German engineers
are not that impeccable as they were thought of before the tragedy, and
that commercial airships do not have future.
Nowadays, a century after the first zeppelin's flight, the German giants
are getting revived.
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