Author Topic: Akron  (Read 2574 times)

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« on: May 05, 2007, 08:35:05 AM »
At the May 3. was the 75th anniversary of the first test of the USS Akron (ZRS-4) as an aircraft carrier. On May 3, 1932, the helium-filled airship used a trapeze-like device to retrieve first a Consolidated N2Y trainer and then a Curtis F9C Sparrowhawk in mid-air. Aircraft recovery was a difficult task, but Lieutenants Daniel W. Harrigan and Howard L. Young piloted their biplanes so that a hook on the top wing of the aircraft snagged the cross-bar on the Akron's "flying trapeze". Once anchored, the returning aircraft were pulled mechanically into a hangar inside the naval airship. Because these airborne landings were such a difficult task, Navy pilots such as Harrigan and Young trained for over a year and were eventually awarded a special badge for their uniforms.

Designed to house up to five biplanes, the USS Akron was build by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation at a special 1175-ft. long by 325-ft. wide dock in Akron, Ohio. After several voyages across the eastern United States, the rigid airship was assigned to the Scouting Fleet at the Naval Air Station (NAS) in Lakehurst, New Jersey. A hangar accident in February of 1932 worried members of the now-defunct House Committee on Naval Affairs, however. As one Congressman carped, "when I see girders snap off like pretzels, I know something is wrong." The USS Akron's new commander, Alger H. Dressel, then supervised the installation of air screws, steeper-pitched propellers, and a T-shaped trapdoor through which airplanes could be dropped into mid-air.

The airborne "landings" of May 3, 1932 were such a success that on the following day, Commander Dressel repeated the exercise with members of the House Committee on Naval Affairs aboard. During the summer of 1932, the USS Akron completed additional maneuvers, this time with a full complement of Cutiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawks. Then tragedy struck. Buffeted by ferocious winds, the USS Akron sank tail first and disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean on April 4, 1933. The dead included Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, chief advocate of the Navy's rigid airship program. Although the naval air station in Sunnyvale, California was eventually re-named Moffett Field, the legacy of the "Air Admiral" would not include a replacement for the USS Akron.,9171,753292-1,00.html