Today’s Illustration: Cause: Still Unknown Today!

burning-on-ground  It Shocked The Entire World!

On This Day: 7:25 P.M. — May 6, 1937 — Hindenburg Explodes Over New Jersey Airfield

“The Hindenburg disaster occurred on May 6, 1937, in Manchester Township, New Jersey, United States. The German passenger airship LZ 129Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast atNaval Air Station Lakehurst. On board were 97 people (36 passengers and 61 crewmen); there were 36 fatalities (13 passengers and 22 crewmen, 1 worker on the ground).” — wikipedia

Facts & Information:

Captain: Max Pruss

Travel Time:  Three Days Across The Atlantic

Flight: Hamburg, Germany To Lakehurst, New Jersey

No matches or lighters were permitted on the airship.

The airship had made 34 trips across the Atlantic the previous year.

Tens of thousands of people had previously flow in such airships.

Zeppelin pins and Valentine cards were produced to highlight such airships.

From 1928 to 1937 the Hindenburg and the Graf had made over 2000 trips across Europe, to America, and to Sought America.

It arrived hours late on its trip from Germany due to headwinds and disruptive weather.

It arrived at Lakehurst midst a thunderstorm on the New Jersey Coast.

Various Theories As To The Cause of the Explosion:

Engine Failure
Static Spark
Incendiary Paint

History records that the Hindenburg exploded when the hydrogen gas which was used for its buoyancy, was sparked and exploded.

Hydrogen is a volatile gas which explodes on ignition.

Helium is not a volatile gas and does not explode when ignited.

The reason that helium was not used by the German airship was because the United States refused to sell it to Germany.  The United States controlled almost all of the helium gas during these early years of Nazi Germany since Germany used airships during WWI for bombing.

The LZ 127 — Graf Zeppelin was the sister ship of the Hindenburg and was used for service without incident even though it was also filled with hydrogen.  Its success was primarily because the airship was redesigned and used different materials.  It flew over a million miles.

Ferdinand von Zeppelin was the man who designed and built the first of these airships.

The airships were used for transatlantic flight from approximately 1928 to 1937.

The Hindenburg was a big as the Titanic.

It is believed today that it was not so much the hydrogen, as it was the materials used for the airship’s skin, that sparked the explosion and supported the fact that the Graf Zeppelin flew without any such incident.

“The incendiary paint theory (IPT) was proposed in 1996 by retired NASA scientist Addison Bain, stating that the doping compound of the airship was the cause of the fire, and that the Hindenburg would have burned even if it were filled with helium. “

A slow-motion picture of the explosion shows a downward movement of the flames, not an upward movement which would be what one would expect if it was the hydrogen.

The disaster took around 32-37 seconds from the beginning to its final crash on the airfield.

Amazingly!!!  — Sixty-Two people survived.

Eye Witness Testimony:

“Buchanan, who now lives in Tuckerton, was right there – and he said he saw the spark that caused it. Indeed, this eyewitness disagrees with experts about why the Hindenburg disaster occurred.

With his brother Frank and some cousins, Buchanan was part of the ground crew that helped guide the hydrogen-filled airship to its mooring post via towlines. And then it happened.

The heat was tremendous,” Buchanan said. “The ship was completely enveloped in red and orange flames and was drifting the same way we were running – I really didn’t think we were going to make it. My hair was singed, and I think the only thing that saved us was that we had sweaters on and were soaking wet. We were literally steaming.”

Buchanan reported what he saw [the backfiring of the airship’s engines] in a questionnaire given to ground-crew members, but he appears to have been ignored by the official boards of inquiry convened both here and in Germany.

But in a book titled The Freedom Element, Addison Bain, a former NASA scientist who conducted his own extensive investigation, referred to it as a “smoking gun.” Bain, whose research included work at archives of the Zeppelin Co., which manufactured the Hindenburg, concluded that the real accelerant was not hydrogen, which burns with a colorless flame, but the dirigible’s cotton-fabric skin, which was coated with a highly combustible aluminum powder to help control its temperature. The sparks from the engine exhaust were not the source of ignition, he believes, but rather an electrical charge produced by the exhaust particulate.

Reporter Herb Morrison:

“It’s practically standing still now they’ve dropped ropes out of the nose of the ship; and (uh) they’ve been taken ahold of down on the field by a number of men. It’s starting to rain again; it’s… the rain had (uh) slacked up a little bit. The back motors of the ship are just holding it (uh) just enough to keep it from…It’s burst into flames! Get this, Charlie; get this, Charlie! It’s fire… and it’s crashing! It’s crashing terrible! Oh, my! Get out of the way, please! It’s burning and bursting into flames and the… and it’s falling on the mooring mast. And all the folks agree that this is terrible; this is the worst of the worst catastrophes in the world. Oh it’s… [unintelligible] its flames… Crashing, oh! Four- or five-hundred feet into the sky and it… it’s a terrific crash, ladies and gentlemen. It’s smoke, and it’s in flames now; and the frame is crashing to the ground, not quite to the mooring mast. Oh, the humanity! And all the passengers screaming around here. I told you; it – I can’t even talk to people, their friends are on there! Ah! It’s… it… it’s a… ah! I… I can’t talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest: it’s just laying there, mass of smoking wreckage. Ah! And everybody can hardly breathe and talk and the screaming. I… I… I’m sorry. Honest: I… I can hardly breathe. I… I’m going to step inside, where I cannot see it. Charlie, that’s terrible. Ah, ah… I can’t. Listen, folks; I… I’m gonna have to stop for a minute because I’ve lost my voice. This is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed.”

— Herbert Morrison, Transcription of WLS radio broadcast describing the Hindenburg disaster. — wikipedia
Hindenburg's Dining Room
Hindenburg’s Dining Room
Airships, such as the Hindenburg and Graf soon became obsolete, even before the disaster because, on November 22, 1935,  a Pan American Airways’ M-130 made the first scheduled flight across the Pacific.
Book: I Survived The Hindenburg Disaster — The story of Hugo Ballard, 13, and his four-year-old sister, Gertie, by Laura Tarshis
The Hindenburg disaster may have been one of the major causes of the lost interest in the airship and flying via an airship — “It ended an age of the Zeppelins.” — Laura Tarshis

Key Illustrative Thoughts:

• Somethings may never be known.
• theories
• say not today or tomorrow we will do this or that
• unplanned
• unexpected
• unknown – who knew
• It started out as a normal day.
• “oh the humanity”
• “the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed”
• saved by soaking wet sweaters
• looking for the cause
• disasters
• survived!
• It shocked the world!
• “helium” vs. “hydrogen”
• It shall be burned up
• delayed — by weather
• what if . . . .?
• survival
• death
• soon out of date / obsolete
• the next invention / the next replacement (Ecclesiastes 1)
• still unknown
• the limits of man’s investigations
• The Question: What Caused It?  Who or What Is To Blame?
• In 32 seconds
• Life can turn on a dime.
• still other airship disasters would follow



Other Information & Links:

The “USS Akron (ZRS-4) was a helium-filled rigid airship of the U.S. Navy which operated between September 1931 and April 1933. She was the world’s first purpose-built flying aircraft carrier, carrying F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes which could be launched and recovered while she was in flight. . . . The Akron was destroyed in a thunderstorm off the coast of New Jersey on the morning of 4 April 1933, killing 73 of the 76 crewmen and passengers. This accident involved the greatest loss of life in any airship crash.” — wikipedia


“In the late 1990s, a NASA hydrogen specialist named Addison Bain set out to prove that the fire was the result not of the hydrogen igniting, but rather the ignition of the aluminum-doped fabric that covered the ship. The key, Bain said, was the fact that the silver paint on the ship’s hull was almost identical in chemical composition to the fuel used in the solid rocket boosters of the Space Shuttle. Subsequent to this, Bain’s theory was picked up by the popular press as being “THE answer, case closed,” although the fact of the matter was that in all too many cases he’d cherry-picked evidence to fit his predetermined conclusion and his theory was, according to most airship historians, full of holes.

Within the past year, the combined efforts of Dr. Alex Dessler, Donald Overs, and William Appleby have shown that many of Bain’s core assumptions and conclusions do not bear up to scientific analysis. We are then, in effect, back to square one, and will likely never know what exactly downed the Hindenburg all those years ago.” — 32 seconds

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