Titanic and Hindenburg

People often compare Titanic and Hindenburgthere was even a film called Hindenburg: Titanic of the Skies. But while both are best remembered for their dramatic disasters, these two passenger ships otherwise had little in common.

On the anniversary of the sinking of Titanic — April 14-15, 1912 —  a brief comparison of the two ships.

Titanic Hindenburg Comparison

  • Titanic: Sank on Maiden Voyage

  • Hindenburg: 62 Successful Flights

Titanic famously sank on her maiden voyage; the ship never once saw the port she was designed to visit, New York.

There is a common misconception that Hindenburg crashed on its maiden voyage as well, but in fact the airship was lost on its 63rd flight, having made many successful voyages between Europe and North and South America.

  • Titanic Death Toll: 68% Died

  • Hindenburg Death Toll: 36% Died

Titanic was a tragedy both in terms of the number of people who died — 1517 men, women, and children perished in the sinking — and also the tragically low rate of survival: Only 32% of the souls on board Titanic survived, and the death toll was even higher for certain groups; only 25% of third class passengers and 24% of the crew survived the sinking.

While Hindenburg’s fiery destruction may have looked unsurvivable to those on the ground, and to people watching films of the disaster, 64% of the passengers and crew survived the accident. Of the 97 persons on board the airship when it burned, only 35 died in the disaster (along with one civilian on the ground).

  • Titanic: Built for Luxury, Not Speed

  • Hindenburg: Built for Speed, Not Luxury

Titanic was built for size and luxury. The White Star ship was never going to win any speed records, but provided passengers with space and luxury never before seen on any ocean liner. Passengers looking for speed in 1912 would have chosen Cunard’s Mauretania or Lusitania rather than Titanic.

Titanic Cabin compared to Hindenburg Cabin

Titanic Cabin | Hindenburg Cabin

Hindenburg was built for one purpose: to cross the ocean faster than any other passenger vessel in the world. The airship’s passenger accommodations were certainly comfortable, and astounding when compared to a modern jetliner, but not luxurious when compared to an ocean liner; the ship’s windowless cabins were about the size of a small railway compartment and passengers shared public bathrooms one deck below. Passengers looking for luxury would have chosen Queen Mary, but Hindenburg was more than twice as fast: While the fastest ocean liners of the era took about five days to cross the Atlantic, Hindenburg’s fastest crossing took less than 43 hours.

  • Titanic: Conservative Design

  • Hindenburg: Cutting Edge Innovation

Titanic was not a technologically innovative ship; she was basically a larger version of ships that had gone before. Titanic’s main power plant was a tried-and-true triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine (although she had a small turbine powering her center propeller) and most of the ship’s notable features and systems — such as her watertight subdivisions and Marconi radio installation — had been used on previous liners.

Hindenburg, in contrast, represented the cutting edge of airship technology, and was one of the most capable aircraft of any kind in its time. Hindenburg had advanced engines, an auto-pilot, and a sonar altimeter among other innovations, and the zeppelin could carry a greater payload a farther distance than any other aircraft of its day. Though the technology of the airship itself was rapidly becoming obsolete, Hindenburg was the summit of airship development.

  • Titanic: 882 feet, 2500 passengers

  • Hindenburg: 808 feet, 72 passengers

Titanic was a little more than 882 feet in length, with a beam of 92.5 feet, and could carry approximately 2,500 passengers.

Hindenburg was roughly the same size — the ship was approximately 808 feet in length, with a diameter of 135 feet — but had berths for only 72 passengers.

  • Titanic: The Beginning of a Golden Age

  • Hindenburg: The End of an Era

Titanic was the beginning of a golden age of transatlantic ocean liners. Titanic’s sister ship Olympic had a distinguished career that lasted until 1935, and the next decades saw a succession of larger and faster ships that included Bremen and Europa, Normandie, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, United States, Queen Elizabeth 2, and France.

Hindenburg was the last airship ever to carry passengers across an ocean. Hindenburg’s near-identical sister ship LZ-130 Graf Zeppelin never carried a paying passenger and was dismantled in 1940.


Illustration of Hindenburg courtesy of artist Max Pinucci, creator of the beautiful new book AIRSHIPS: Designed for Greatness.



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Gia and jueLlePete BraunMichael L. HoppHendrick StoopsNeil Hemstad Recent comment authors
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Gia and jueLle
Gia and jueLle

thank you for these wonderful things about the Hindenburg and the Titanic thanks again

Michael L. Hopp
Michael L. Hopp

The popular comparison between the two likely has to do with the truly large scale of both vessels. Granted, as you noted, many an ocean liner would be larger than Titanic, but in her time she lived up to her name. Both were majestic, greatly noted for their elegance to the eye, and both vessels made an immediate impression to those who witnessed them. This is perhaps why so many consider the Hindenburg to be the “Titanic of the Sky”, along with the unfortunate fate of both ships. Perhaps, at least in regards to the timing of their loss, the… Read more »

Neil Hemstad
Neil Hemstad

What is sad is that the majority of people seem to believe that the Hindenburg crashed on its maiden voyage to the U.S. while it had a very successful first season of flying in 1936 and several flights in 1937 before the crash.The sinking of the Titanic did not spell the end of ocean liners the crash of the Hindenburg due to the unique conditions of the germans not being able to accuire helium meant that it was not possible to continue passenger flights with airships.Had helium been made available then flights would have resumed in 1938 and have lasted… Read more »

Hendrick Stoops

The majority of my friends, I am convinced, believe that the Hindenburg crashed right after taking off, and there are many people who know virtually nothing of the golden age of airships. In reality, it was not feasible to end the transatlantic steamship trade, as there were no alternatives to the large liners. The Hindenburg, sad as it is to consider, was among the last breed of large passenger airships, with the swift advancement of heavier-than-air transportation which would, in a few years, be skyrocketed by the needs of the Second World War. I am confident that, as you stated,… Read more »

Pete Braun
Pete Braun

Wasn’t the Los Angeles still in service at the time? I heard the demises of the Akron and Macon pressed the LA back into service.