A myth has taken hold that the “paint” on the Hindenburg’s skin — rather than its flammable hydrogen lifting gas — was somehow responsible for the Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, and this myth somehow persists even though it has been debunked by photographic evidence, scientific analysis, historical research, and even the TV show MythBusters.
The so-called “Incendiary Paint Theory,” originally suggested by a retired NASA employee named Addison Bain, claims that the doping solution applied to the airship’s fabric covering (often referred to as “paint”) was highly flammable and was the real cause of the Hindenburg disaster.
Because the dope contained aluminum powder, which is also used as a component of some rocket fuels, Bain even claimed on occasion that the Hindenburg was “painted with rocket fuel.”
The truth is that the dope used on the Hindenburg was specifically chosen for its low flammability, and the composition of the dope had almost nothing in common with the formula used to make rocket fuel.
Some people also seem to believe the Hindenburg’s doping solution was similar to thermite, which is equally untrue.
And even more absurd is the claim that that none of the passengers or crew were injured by the airship’s hydrogen, which burned so furiously that the entire 800-foot long zeppelin was completely destroyed in a matter of seconds.
It is possible (though not likely, given the wet and rainy conditions) that the covering was the cause of the initial ignition, but if the Hindenburg had been inflated with helium instead of hydrogen, even a small fire on the outer covering would not have resulted in a major catastrophe.
For easy-to-understand photographic proof that the Hindenburg crash was caused by hydrogen and not flammable paint, visit The Hindenburg was not â€œPainted with Rocket Fuelâ€: Photographic Evidence.
And for a complete and detailed analysis of the Incendiary Paint myth — including the exact composition of the dope and how it differs from rocket fuel — visit Rocket Fuel, Thermite, and Hydrogen: Myths about the Hindenburg Crash.