A guest post by Alexey Belokrys.

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On 29 August 1930, near Moscow, one of the earliest Soviet airships “Komsomol’skaya Pravda” (Комсомoльская прaвда) took off for her maiden flight. After a one-hour flight over Moscow she successfully landed.

Komsomol’skaya Pravda being assembled outdoor

For the decade of the 1920s the Soviet state refrained from building airships. Neither the Red Army neither the Soviet Navy wished to order an airship for military purpose, nor was there interest by any civilian agency. Komsomol’skaya Pravda was built by volunteers with private donations; some 12,000 Soviet rubles were raised from Soviet and foreign donors to fund the construction. This was roughly equivalent to 6,000 U.S. dollars.

Key facts about Komsomol’skaya Pravda

“Komsomol’skaya Pravda” — literally “Komsomol Truth” — was an official countrywide newspaper of Komsomol, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League. The airship was named after the newspaper as its editorial board was a fundraiser for her construction and the majority of donations were received from the Komsomol members.

Komsomol’skaya Pravda envelope in the trough filled with gas

Komsomol’skaya Pravda was a simple non-rigid airship with a volume of 2500 cubic meters of hydrogen and a length of 46 meters. The ship carried one 185 hp BMW aircraft engine. The envelope was made of the fabric remained after old Russian WWI observation balloons of the Parseval type, and a metal open car was rope-hanged beneath the envelope.

As there were no airship hangars around Moscow at the time, the Komsomol’skaya Pravda’s units were fabricated in a former church building. The entire airship was finally assembled and filled with gas outdoor in a natural trough. The same place was used as a mooring in 1930–1931.

Komsomol’skaya Pravda was used as a training airship by aeronautics students as well as for propaganda flights. During 1930–1931, Komsomol’skaya Pravda made 55 flights and covered 3555 km. She was sent for total reconstruction because of deterioration in 1932.

Komsomol’skaya Pravda in the air

Though unsophisticated, Komsomol’skaya Pravda made a great impression on the Soviet people. Her successful operation was a valid argument for the authorities to eventually launch a state-run airship program.

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"Дирижаблестрой" на Долгопрудной : 1934, один год из жизни
Alexey Belokrys is a mining project manager based in Moscow, Russia. Passionate about the forgotten history of Soviet airships, he been writing and speaking about them for years. His book about the first (and the only) Soviet state airship construction enterprise, “Dirizhablestroi,” was published by Paulsen in 2011[“Дирижаблестрой” на Долгопрудной : 1934, один год из жизни].

 
Alexey can be reached at belokrys@yandex.ru.

 

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A guest post by Rick Zitarosa, Vice President and Historian of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society.

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25 August 1927, Naval Air Station Lakehurst: One of the most famous moments of airship history as the USS LOS ANGELES did her fabled “head stand” on the “high mast.”

U.S.S. Los Angeles handstand

Some background on this event. The big dirigible had been taken out of the hangar that afternoon for the first time in two-and-a-half months. Her last flight had been in early June when they took her down to meet the cruiser USS MEMPHIS with Charles Lindbergh and his “Spirit of St. Louis” arriving back from Europe; the engines had been in such bad shape they could not be run above “Half Speed” and two of the gas cells were so badly deteriorated that they dared not ascend higher than 1500 feet for fear that any pressure on their cattle-gut animal “skin” linings might cause them to fail completely. (Rather than the original plan to meet the MEMPHIS at sea, they were barely able to meet the incoming vessel at the mouth of the Potomac River, escort her the last few miles to the Washington Navy Yard and then limp back to the safety of the Lakehurst hangar.)

On this day, the airship was fresh from an intensive overhaul that the Navy had reluctantly provided funds for. Tests were to be run for NACA (The “National Advisory Committee For Aeronautics” the direct forerunner to NASA) and called for an 8-hour flight to 10,000 feet for fitted with strain-gauges and manometers for bending/deceleration tests in conjunction with the “next generation” of airships planned. The gas cells were only inflated to 80% and there was about ten hours’ fuel on board.

Lieutenant T.G.W. “Tex” Settle was on the bridge as Officer Of the Deck preparing for the flight around 1500 hours when a cool southeast breeze came in from the ocean. The ship’s nose had been pointing westward. Instead of swinging around to face the new wind the tail began to rise. And RISE!

Rather suddenly, the crew on board realized that *something* was amiss. Yes, the ship had “kited” on the mast before but not like this. Past 45-degrees men began grabbing girders and loose articles like toolboxes, kitchenware and spare parts began crashing forward. (One man, in the rear engine car, yelled out “Holy Christ, I can see NEW YORK!”)

On the ground, at the base of the mast, Commander Rosendahl was freaking out and yelling for the crew at the top of the mooring mast to “trip the ship!” Lieutenant Settle yelled back ” This is the OFFICER OF THE DECK! Do NOT disconnect! ”

Within a minute it was all over. The USS LOS ANGELES did a complete 180-degree headstand and came back down on the other side of the mast facing southeastward. Quickly unmasted and marched back into the hangar, it turned out that damage was minimal, almost nil, most of it caused by falling tools and spare parts. Not sure if they ever *did* end up flying that 10,000 foot “high altitude” flight.

I have heard many stories of airships “kiting” and never thought I’d get to see it, but was actually there at Lakehurst, only a few hundred yards from where this amazing photo was taken, some 86 years later on another August day when the MZ-3A airship did the *same thing* (something that will always make me appreciate the durability of “Lightship” airship products because the entire damage amounted to a broken bungee on one of the landing gear wheels when she smashed down on the ground.)

Did I manage to grab my cell phone camera? Nah! I was too much in shock like everybody else who witnessed it!

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Today in 1921: Crash of Airship R-38 / ZR-2

by Dan Grossman on August 24, 2015

On this day in 1921, the British-built airship R-38 — intended for U.S. Navy service as ZR-2 — broke up in the air near Hull and crashed into the waters of the Humber estuary where its hydrogen ignited, killing all but five of the 49 men aboard.

R-38 First Flight

R-38 Control Car

 

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Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin was born on this day in 1838.

Count Zeppelin (second from rght) during the American Civil War

Count Zeppelin (second from rght) during the American Civil War

 

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Happy July 4, America

by Dan Grossman on July 4, 2015

July 4 Airship

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Happy Birthday, Zeppelins! 115 Years of Zeppelin Airships

July 2, 2015

The world’s first zeppelin flew for the first time 115 years ago today, on July 2, 1900. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin completed his first airship, LZ-1, in the winter of 1899 but decided to wait until the summer of 1900 before attempting to fly his new invention. The ship was inflated with hydrogen in June and made its […]

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Happy Canada Day

July 1, 2015

R.100 in Canada, 1930.

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Newsreels of U.S.S. Akron (ZRS-4) from British Pathé

June 16, 2015

The people at British Pathé kindly send us a DM on Twitter (@Airships) about airship newsreels they have posted. We will be sharing them periodically on the blog. Today’s selection are two films of the U.S. Navy airship ZRS-4 Akron, showing her operation as an airborne aircraft carrier and her tragic crash.

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Airship Exhibit at New Museum in California

June 4, 2015

The New Museum Los Gatos is hosting an exhibition about airships. Giants in the Sky | The Rise and Fall of Airships will be a multimedia, interactive exposition including contemporary artwork, vintage photographs, artifacts, memorabilia, and video. The museum is located in Silicon Valley near San Jose and Moffett Field, home to the American naval […]

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Upcoming Changes to Goodyear Airship Fleet

June 2, 2015

An article by Jim Mackinnon (@JimMackinnonABJ) of the Akron Beacon Journal about changes to the Goodyear airship fleet: Two Goodyear airships now in Akron area; California blimp to be retired in August Thanks for keeping us up to date, Jim!

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A Visit to the Zeppelin Mast in Recife, Brazil

May 24, 2015

Last month I visited the world’s last remaining zeppelin mast, the Torre do Zeppelin in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. History of the Recife Zeppelin Field The landing field in Recife was the first zeppelin base in South America. Passenger and mail service to South America was an early dream of Hugo Eckener, who realized it was one of […]

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Hindenburg Disaster Anniversary – May 6, 1937

May 6, 2015

Every year on the sad anniversary of the loss of the airship Hindenburg I drink several toasts. To the memory of the airship in better times… To the memory of the man who made it all possible… And in memory of those who lost their lives.

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Easter Greetings from Airships.net

April 5, 2015
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Anniversary of U.S.S. Akron crash – April 4, 1933

April 4, 2015

On this day in 1933, the U.S. Navy dirigible ZRS-4 Akron crashed in a storm off the coast of New Jersey, killing 73 of the 76 men aboard the airship.

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The American Navy’s “Passenger” Airship

February 25, 2015

U.S.S. Los Angeles was an American naval vessel, but her interiors were designed for civilian passenger service. Built as LZ-126 in Germany, Los Angeles was the brainchild of Hugo Eckener. The Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from constructing zeppelins, so to get around that restriction – and save the Zeppelin Company – Eckener proposed building […]

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Book about British Airship R.34

February 15, 2015

Flight of the Titan: The Story of the R34 is a (somewhat) recent book about the historic 1919 transatlantic crossing of the British airship R.34. Although it was published a few years ago I have not yet read the book — my copy is now on the way — but knowledgeable friends speak highly of it. The […]

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Happy Valentine’s Day from Airships.net

February 14, 2015
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R.100, Petri Dishes, and the Wheat Rust Fungus

February 11, 2015

An interesting article on a scientific experiment carried out during R.100’s transatlantic crossing to Canada in 1930. And it’s always flattering to be quoted by the BBC.      

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Zeppelin Dining included in New Book about Meals in the Air

December 23, 2014

A newly published history of dining in the sky includes the era of passenger zeppelins. Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies discusses dining in the early DELAG airships as well as Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg, and even mentions the military airships of WWI. I was pleased to help with the book […]

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Airship Holiday Cards to Share with your Friends

December 22, 2014

Feel free to download and share by email, Facebook, Twitter, or however you choose. Happy Holidays, Helium Heads!

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