On this day in 1937 the Hindenburg burst into flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey, ending the era of passenger airship travel.
The Hindenburg had been launched on March 4, 1936, and had completed 62 successful flights, including multiple crossings of the North and South Atlantic, before crashing at the American naval base at Lakehurst while attempting to land. The accident killed 35 of the 97 passengers and crew aboard the airship, and one member of the ground crew.
The zeppelin was inflated with 7 million cubic feet of highly-flammable hydrogen gas (of which about 5-6 million cubic feet remained at the end of its transatlantic crossing), and the most likely cause of the fire was the ignition of hydrogen, which had escaped from one of the ship’s gas cells, by an electrostatic discharge; the ship was landing in an area of such severe thunderstorm activity that nearby rubber factories had been closed because of the risk of explosion from static discharge. (Theories that the Hindenburg’s paint or fabric covering was somehow responsible for the tragedy have been discredited.)
Hindenburg was the fastest way to cross the Atlantic at the time, and the airship’s 2-1/2 day voyage between Europe and America took half the time required by the fastest ocean liners of the day.
The Hindenburg disaster was recently featured on the NBC show Timeless and a lot of people have been asking about Kate Drummond.