July 15, 2021
Had it not been for the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, we might all be flying to our vacation destinations in blimps, not planes. In addition to taking luxury cruises, we could take luxury blimp cruises, enjoying fine dining and dancing among the clouds.
Blimp travel was still in its infancy when the Hindenburg left Frankfort, Germany, and headed to the United States. Approaching an airfield at Lakehurst, New Jersey, the Hindenburg exploded in dramatic fashion and plunged to the ground, as shown in this colorized photograph of the day. Let’s look at the Hindenburg disaster and how it put an end to the age of blimp travel.
The Birth of the Blimp
Hot air balloons were quite popular in the 1800s. The only drawback with balloon transportation is that you cannot control the direction of travel. The balloons travel on the wind. Early aeronautical engineers sought ways to add a propulsion mechanism to balloons. This effort gave rise to the rigid and semi-rigid inflatable airships called blimps, dirigibles, and zeppelins. A German military officer, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, was a leader in developing the airship that would bear his name. The Germans used dirigibles during World War I. After the war, Britain, the United States, and Japan also began building blimps, although the Germans were far ahead in the technology.