Historical Events  General
USS Akron


USS Akron

Worst airship disaster in history

Ask anyone what was the worst airship disaster in history and they'll most likely say the Hindenburg.

Not only is this incorrect, but chances are they've never even heard of the actual one, which was the USS Akron 4 years earlier.

Operating between September 1931 and April 1933, this was the world's first purpose built flying aircraft carrier. F93 Sparrowhawk fighter planes could actually land and take off from her, albeit in a highly unconventional way, whilst she was in flight.

During a thunderstorm in April 1933, the Akron was destroyed killing 73. By contrast, 36 died in the Hindenburg disaster of 1937. Both occurred over US soil, although the Hindenburg was a German passenger aircraft.

Could the fact no-one seems to recall the worst of these two be connected with the fact the Hindenburg crash was filmed, and the famous "Oh! The humanity!" footage has been seen many times since, so is ingrained in the public consciousness?

US Navy

Many people don't even remember the US operating any airships - they think they were all run by the Germans. Of those who do, they assume it must have been part of the American air force, but again this is wrong since they were run by the US Navy. At the time, the USS Akron and her sister ship, the Macron, were among the largest flying objects ever built. They were filled with helium, unlike the Zeppelin which used hydrogen. The design of the frame was a refinement from earlier failed ones, such as was used in the Shenandoah and had failed earlier. This new, stronger design allowed the Akron to mount her engines inside the hull, and it used 3 fins which were mounted entirely outside the main structure.


Ironically there is footage of an accident with the Akron, but not the one which destroyed it: