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The Hindenburg, LZ-129, was the 129th airship (see List of Zeppelins) in the series begun by Ferdinand von Zeppelin, and was named after him. She was just shy of 804 feet long, could lift 42,000 pounds (crew & cargo) (http://www.airships.net/hindenburg/disaster/commerce-department-report), and could fly 85 mph.

German Airship Hindenburg (LZ-129)

Hindenburg

Photo credit: Mr.YuriGagarin Flikr page
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mryurigagarin/4355992814/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Construction

Construction of the Hindenburg began in 1931, at Friedrichshafen, Germany - the same location as the Graf Zeppelin and others of the visionary Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin. She was completed in 1936. She was named after Paul von Hindenburg, second president of Germany (1925-1934). The Hindenburg was the first to design the passenger compartment completely inside the hull, instead of hanging underneath the frame in a gondola. She was 803.8 feet long! Absolutely amazing! That's 2.68 American football-fields long. That is beyond imagination! She was 135.1 feet in diameter! At that length, and that diameter, she would have been a most amazing sight.

Operations

Her first flight was Mar 4, 1936. She then cruised over the Bodensee and the Friedrichshafen area for something like 3 hours. What a sight she must have been!

She made several trial flights over the next few weeks under operation of the Zeppelin Company. Then on March 23, 1936, she was turned over to the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei (DZR) to begin commercial service.

She made several propaganda flights in Germany through the end of March, 1936, then was pressed into long distance service. From May 6-9, 1936 she made her first trip to Lakehurst, NJ, USA. From there, she entered into regular service to Lakehurst.

She made 10 successful round trips to Lakehurst! This is a fact not mentioned much in the popular press. Between October 21, 1936 and March 26, 1937 she made several round trips to Rio de Janerio and Frankfurt, Germany. Then on May 3, 1937 she began her fateful final trip to Lakehurst, NJ.

The Hindenburg flight schedule is preserved at this site: Airships.net

Demise

Sadly, the Hindenburg burned on May 6, 1937 as it approached for landing at Lakehurst, NJ. The disaster was captured in newsreels and the horrific fire and crash are still seared into our minds today even though the disaster was over 78 years ago. The cause of the fire remains unknown to this day.

Ignominious End

The disaster shattered public interest in the great airships as a passenger-carrying system, and one can say that the "age of the great airship" died with the Hindenburg on May 6, 1937. All remaining airships, of which there were the Graf Zeppelin, LZ-127; the Graf Zeppelin II, LZ-130; and the Los Angeles, ZR-3 (also known as the LZ-126) were decommissioned and dismantled by 1940. All those old enough to have seen a great airship and remember it are now in their 80's! Even those of us born in the 1950's have no clue what it must have been like to be in the presence of these majestic aircraft.

Sites of Interest

Lakehurst New Jersey, USA:

Obviously I must start with the disaster site. The LZ-129 was late arriving at Lakehurst NJ around 7 pm due to bad weather. At 7:25 pm, the flames appeared near but forward of the vertical fin, or between the rear port engine and the port fin (reports vary). We all know what happened next. As the great airship burned, it lost lift and came crashing to the ground. Watching the movie newsreels of the time still brings out pain and horror in the viewer as they watch the great airship be consumed by the fire and crash to the ground.

LZ-129 Burning over Lakehurst

Photo credit: Airships.net
http://www.airships.net/hindenburg/disaster

This next photo is poignant in that it is an aerial shot of the crash site several days after the crash, yet before the inquiry into the crash was completed and the debris removed. It is reminiscent of the aerial photo of the R-101 crash site in France, seven years earlier.

LZ-129 Skeleton at Lakehurst

Photo credit: The Atlantic
http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/hindenburg050812/h34_70507023.jpg

The location of the crash site at Lakehurst is well known of course and marked still today.

LZ-129 Crash Site Location

Photo credit: Google Earth

And here is the site! (above). The map tack is at Lat 40.030276 N, Lon 74.325804 W. (Click here to View in Google Maps).

LZ-129 Memorial at Lakehurst

Photo credit: Jesse Loesch
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jesseloesch/4058659539/sizes/l/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jesseloesch/

The memorial sits on the spot where the control gondola hit the ground. This is a great photo isn't it! Hat's off to Jesse Loesch!


Wildwood New Jersy, USA:

This next photo shows the Hindenburg passing over Wildwood, NJ on Aug 8, 1936. This terrific photo appears on many pages on Facebook and on Pinterest as "May 6th, 1937 just before the disaster" but they are all wrong. The date is August 8, 1936 and the Hindenburg was on its sixth trip from Frankfurt, Germany, to the Lakehurst Naval Air Station. The captain decided to delay the landing until the high winds subsided and directed the airship over New York City and down the Jersey coastline to Washington DC to kill time and give his passengers a treat:

LZ-129 over Wildwood, NJ

Photo credit: Unknown

The location took me a while to establish, but it was eventually identified! The Victorian building prominent under the Hindenburg is at 38.992048° N, 74.807681° W. Found on Google maps:

The site has not faired well over the many years! The wonderful Victorian is gone, and all that remains is a heavily remodeled shell. Take a look:

LZ-129 over Wildwood, NJ

Photo credit: Composite from existing photos


Manhattan, New York, USA:

Another photo of interest is this one, with the LZ-129 flying over Manhattan sometime in 1936 or 1937:

LZ-129 over Manhattan

Photo credit: ABC News/Associated Press
http://abcnews.go.com/International/slideshow/explosion-german-blimp-hindenburg-16265407?page=3

Of course, Manhattan has significantly changed over the decades, but the perspective is still recognizable:

Manhattan

Photo credit: Google Earth

For the Latitude and Longitude of this shot, I chose the Castle Clinton National Monument which is visible in the 1930's photo of the Hindenburg. The map is centered at Lat 40.703320 N, Lon 74.016948 W. (Click here to View in Google Maps).


Hartford, Connecticut, USA:

In this photo the Hindenburg is seen passing over a tower. This would not be too special if it were not for the fact that the tower is known! It is the "Traveler's Tower" in Hartford, Connecticut and the tower is still there, which of course made it easy to find:

LZ-129 over Hartford

Photo credit: "Smile Moon" (on FLIKR) at http://www.flickr.com/photos/smilemoon/5333308749/

And here is a Google Earth overhead view of the Traveler's Tower today:

Traveler's Tower location

Photo credit: Google Earth

The location of the map-tack in this image is at Lat 41.764483 N, Lon 072.672615 W. (Click here to View in Google Maps).

Manhattan, New York, USA:

Another photo of interest is this one, with the LZ-129 flying over Manhattan sometime in 1936 or 1937:

LZ-129 over Manhattan

Photo credit: ABC News/Associated Press
http://abcnews.go.com/International/slideshow/explosion-german-blimp-hindenburg-16265407?page=3

Of course, Manhattan has significantly changed over the decades, but the perspective is still recognizable:

Manhattan

Photo credit: Google Earth

For the Latitude and Longitude of this shot, I chose the Castle Clinton National Monument which is visible in the 1930's photo of the Hindenburg. The map is centered at Lat 40.703320 N, Lon 74.016948 W. (Click here to View in Google Maps).