New Book about the Airship Roma Disaster

A new book about the 1922 airship Roma disaster will be published soon.

Roma book

The Roma was a United States Army airship built by Umberto Nobile; the ship ignited when it hit high-tension electrical wires near Langley Field at Hampton Roads, Virginia, killing 34 of the ship’s 45 crew members.

Burning wreckage of the U.S. Army's hydrogen airship Roma; Norfolk, Virginia - February 21, 1922.

Burning wreckage of the U.S. Army’s hydrogen airship Roma; Norfolk, Virginia – February 21, 1922.

The Roma crash was just one of many hydrogen airship disasters and after the accident the United States government decided never again to inflate an airship with hydrogen.

I am looking forward to reading more about the full story in Ms. Sheppard’s book.

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6 Comments on "New Book about the Airship Roma Disaster"

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Nancy E. Sheppard

My book, The Airship ROMA Disaster in Hampton Roads, is now available at the Amazon link in this comment. Thanks!

Alexey Belokrys

Just bought one. Thanks for the information, Dan.

Roma seems to be the first of the ‘Umberto Nobile’s deadly chain’ of semi-rigid airships. ‘Roma’ – emergency descent, crash, fire, (1922). ‘Italia’ – emergency descent, crash (1928). ‘SSSR V-7bis’ – emergency descent, crash, fire (1935). ‘SSSR V-6’ – emergency descent, crash, fire (1938). All semi-rigid, all designed by Mr. Nobile. Was this fatal accidental coincidence, or… some kind of curse?

Frank Lazar

It’s more of a demonstration of how delicate airships were at the time. Keep in mind that the Italia was lost in the Arctic.


I hope this book opens up the engineering secrets of the Roma and Nobile’s semi rigid airships. I am curious to know more about how they maintained the gas bag pressure and prevented surging with such a large envelope. I am also interested in the static lift, and performance numbers of the ship. Nobile achieved quite a lot with this type of airship in that time and it’s curious why he chose the odd box kite tail fin arrangement over previous and very successful designs like the Norge and Italia.

Frank Lazar

AFAIK, the Roma and Nobile’s other airships were “semi-rigid” whose shape was maintained with the keel.

Milan Zivancevic

Thanks for the tip.