In 1936, the Zeppelin Company, with the financial aid of Nazi Germany, built the Hindenburg (the LZ 129), the largest airship ever made. Named after the late German president, Paul von Hindenburg, the Hindenburg stretched 804-feet-long and was 135-feet-tall at its widest point. That made the Hindenburg just 78-feet shorter than the Titanic and four times larger than the Good Year blimps.
The Design of the Hindenburg
The Hindenburg was a rigid airship definitely in the Zeppelin design. It had a gas capacity of 7,062,100 cubic feet and was powered by four 1,100-horsepower diesel engines. Though it had been built for helium (a less flammable gas than hydrogen), the United States had refused to export helium to Germany (for fear of other countries building military airships). Thus, the Hindenburg was filled with hydrogen in its 16 gas cells.
External Design on the Hindenburg
On the outside of the Hindenburg, two large, black swastikas on a white circle surrounded by a red rectangle (the Nazi emblem) were emblazoned on two tail fins. Also on the outside of the Hindenburg was "D-LZ129" painted in black and the airship's name, "hindenburg" painted in scarlet, Gothic script. For its appearance at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin in August, the Olympic rings were painted on the side of the Hindenburg.
Luxury Accommodations Inside the Hindenburg
The inside of the Hindenburg surpassed all other airships in luxury. Though most of the airship's interior consisted of gas cells, there were two decks (just aft of the control gondola) for the passengers and crew. These decks spanned the width (but not the length) of the Hindenburg.
- Deck A (the top deck) offered a promenade and a lounge on each side of the airship which was nearly walled with windows (which opened), allowing passengers to watch the scenery throughout their trip. In each of these rooms, passengers could sit on chairs made of aluminum. The lounge even featured a baby grand piano that was made of aluminum and covered in yellow pigskin, weighing only 377 pounds. Between the promenade and the lounge were the passenger cabins. Each cabin had two berths and a washbasin, similar in design to a sleeping room on a train. But in order to keep weight to a minimum, the passenger cabins were separated with only a single layer of foam covered by fabric. Toilets, urinals, and one shower could be found downstairs, on Deck B.
- Deck B (the lower deck) also contained the kitchen, and the crew's mess. Plus, Deck B offered the amazing amenity of a smoking room. Considering that hydrogen gas was extremely flammable, the smoking room was a novelty in air travel. Connected to the rest of the ship through an air-lock door, the room was specially insulated to keep hydrogen gases from leaking into the room. Passengers were able to lounge in the smoking room day or night and freely smoke (lighting from the only lighter allowed on the craft, which was built into the room).
The Hindenburg's First Flight
The Hindenburg, a giant in size and grandeur, first emerged from its shed in Friedrichshafen, Germany on March 4, 1936. After only a few test flights, the Hindenburg was ordered by the Nazi propaganda minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, to accompany the Graf Zeppelin over every German city with a population over 100,000 to drop Nazi campaign pamphlets and to blare patriotic music from loudspeakers. The Hindenburg's first real trip was as a symbol of the Nazi regime.
On May 6, 1936, the Hindenburg initiated its first scheduled transatlantic flight from Europe to the United States.
Though passengers had flown on airships for 27 years by the time the Hindenburg was completed, the Hindenburg was destined to have a pronounced affect on passenger flight in lighter-than-air crafts when the Hindenburg exploded on May 6, 1937.