75 years ago today, the German passenger airship LZ-129 Hindenburg was destroyed by fire as it attempted to land in Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36 of the 97 on board the ship, along with a member of the ground crew.
This wouldn’t have happened if they had used helium as the lifting agent, rather than hydrogen.
Yes, I know the skin and the doping agent used to paint it was flammable. However, it wasn’t explosively combustible to the point where the ship would have instantly plummeted form the sky and burned to the ground in less than half a minute if that alone was what was burning.
Additionally, Hindenburg was intended for use with helium rather than hydrogen, so wasn’t equipped with fire prevention measures like anti-static gasbags, and fireproofing equipment that earlier helped earlier ships like the LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin avoid similar disaster after many years of flying “safely” using the explosive gas.
To add to that, there’s evidence that the Hindenburg was being improperly handled in an effort to land quickly in dangerous, static prone weather conditions, which may have compromised structural elements which allowed hydrogen to escape and be ignited, possibly by atmospheric static.
The Hindenburg was the first and last instance in which passengers on a commercial Zeppelin flight were harmed or killed in flight.
A final note, the destruction of the Hindenburg as a case against the development of hydrogen-electric fuel cell technology is about as valid as using the sinking of the Titanic to argue against the use of ice cubes in cooling soft drinks at a picnic.
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