The ZRS-class USS Akron and USS Macon, both fabricated by Goodyear Aircraft Co. in Akron, served as part of a massive experiment. Their purpose as proof of concept models for a skeptic Navy was masked by the vast complexity and performance of the two ships.
The ZRS designation stood for 'Lighter Than Air (The 'Z' likely being an homage to Zeppelin) Rigid Scout'. The ship's F9C Sparrowhawk fighters were designed to serve as both protective 'parasite' fighters, dispatched to eliminate threats to the larger mothership, as well as reconnaissance vehicles, their range vastly expanded by the ultra-long distance capabilities of the airship.
The next generation airship would represent a great step in naval aviation. The ZRCV designation belied their true role, CV was the navy abbreviation for Carrier Vehicle, as flying aircraft carriers.
14 DIE IN SHENANDOAH CRASH
With this headline, on the morning of September 3rd, 1925, the Baltimore American announced the crash of the first American rigid airship. The ZR-1 Shenandoah (originally designated "Fleet Airship No. 1" represented the start of America's unfortunate association with rigid airships.
Assembled at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station the then FA-1 was copied from a wartime German Zeppelin.
The Shenandoah garnered several firsts during her short career including the first transcontinental airship flight, the first airship to launch aircraft, the first airship to moor to a ship (the U.S.S. Patoka, more about that ship later) and, of course, the first American built airship.
The ZR-1 takes shape in the same hangar that would later shelter the Hindenburg. Parts for the airship were fabricated in Philadelphia then shipped to Lakehurst for final assembly.
The Shenandoah is christened after two years of construction
The Shenandoah shares Lakehurst Hangar …
To facilitate a complete story of any airship that I feature I will no longer be using the label "Airship of the Month". Instead, I'll have a "Featured Airship" which allows me to take as long as I need on a particular airship E.G. with so much information on the Hindenburg It'd take more than one month to complete a full collection on it.)
This will go into effect on April 1st with the Shenandoah as was originally planned for March.
In the meantime, to make this post presentable, here are two of my all-time favorite airship photographs.
The Hindenburg floats towards disaster at Lakehurst. Two hours later the ship would become one of the most famous air disasters of the 20th Century. The R-101 lit up inside her Cardington hangar.