Established in 1753, the British Museum, located in London, England,
There have been a lot of air disasters in the news lately, particularly of the airplane variety. As humans, we should accept the idea of aircrafts crashing because it’s not a natural thing for us to fly. However, there is one brand of air travel that you don’t see too much of commercially anymore, the blimp.
Blimp, zeppelin, dirigible, they go by many names but this highly combustible, hot air balloon, with an engine they haven’t had the greatest of history.
Wingfoot Air Express (Crashed 1919)
Nothing ruins a carnival quite like a fiery explosion. On July 21st, 1919 the Wingfoot Air Express took off for the White City amusement park in Chicago, Illinois. The airship caught fire as it rose above the ground and crashed into the Illinois Trust & Savings Bank. At the time of the crash, it was the most deadly resulting in 1 dead crew member, 2 dead passengers, and 10 dead bank employees.
Airship Italia (Crashed 1928)
The Airship Italia was built by engineer Umberto Nobile to make a second series of flights around the North Pole. Of the 19 crew members, 9 survived including Nobile and his Fox terrier Titina.
Surviving navigator, Finn Malmgren advised the ship be turned back into bad winds for a closer landing as opposed to continuing through the North Pole. This is commonly targeted as the main cause of the crash and Malmgren tried to kill himself several times over the guilt that plagued him.
Roma (Crashed 1922)
Contrary to the name, this ship was bought and used by the US Army. While out flying, Captain Dale Mabry of the United States Air Service lost control of the dirigible and crashed into the ground in Norfolk, Virginia. At the time, it was the worst accident in aeronautics history, resulting in 34 deaths. Roma was the last hydrogen-filled blimp used by the United States.
Erbsloh (Crashed 1910)
Blimp crashes aren’t exclusively an American thing, in 1910 the German airship Erbsloh crashed into the ground. The cause was a hydrogen leak that caused the explosion after coming in contact with sparks. All five people aboard were killed.
Hindenburg (Crashed 1937)
What’s an exploding blimp list without the Hindenburg disaster? While attempting to land the Hindenburg caught fire and slammed into the ground. Of the 97 people aboard there were 35 fatalities.
La Republique (Crashed 1909)
Like many others, this was a military ship and was used in a variety of military maneuvers. On the day of the crash, one of the propellers pierced the gasbag and caused the zeppelin to come crashing down at high speed. All 4 crew members were killed.
USS Akron (Crashed February 1932, May 1932, August 1932, and April 1933)
If you’ve read my bio you know I’m from Ohio, more specifically Akron, Ohio. My hometown is well known for being the “Rubber City” and home of Goodyear. So it saddens me to say that a few of these blimps featured were made about 30 minutes from where I live.
The USS Akron is the most accident prone of all the dirigibles mentioned here. Between September 1931 and April 1933 it crashed 4 times. It’s also important to note that the USS Akron was among the largest airships filled with helium to fly, rivaling the Hindenburg (the biggest hydrogen-filled airship). It’s responsible for the most loss of life in any blimp crash to date.
The first crash resulted only in cosmetic damage to the ship but in the second crash was more dangerous resulting in a majority of the men letting going of their safety lines. The fourth crash is really where most of the tragedy lies. The Akron encountered severe weather while crossing the Atlantic ocean. The zeppelin crashed and broke apart into the sea, 73 of the 76 people on board died.