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Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Another element of conservation of fuel ? Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Yes, sir.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. What were the circumstances of the Akron storm experience?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. The Akron's occasion that I remember was very similar, except that with the Akron, having considerably more fuel and greater radius, we were not at all worried about the necessity for returning to Lakehurst at the time.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. You were operating from Lakehurst ?
Lieutenant Commander ROGER. We were operating from Lakehurst also.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Where were you when you ran into these untoward conditions?
Lieutenant Commander Rogers. Right where the Akron was lost, over Barnegat Bay. You say where was I when the Akron was actually lost?
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. No. Where was the Akron when you were aboard it and encountered these storm conditions ?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Over Barnegat Bay.
Lieutenant Commander Rogers. No, sir; I don't think so. Commander Rosendahl was in command of the ship, and I think Commander Dresel was on board then, as preparatory to command.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Will you explain what happened on that occasion ?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. The conditions were very similar. We had been cruising. I don't just recall what the purpose of the flight was. We had been cruising along the eastern coast and had intended to land sometime that night. Thunderstorms developed along the
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Do you make frequent night landings? Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Yes, sir; usually at sunset or sunColonel BRECKINRIDGE. Not after or before if possible.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. It is quite easy to make the landings, but we usually find it more convenient to terminate the flight either at sunset or sunrise.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Excuse my interruption.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. We had intended to land at sunset or later, but by radio we received information that a thunderstorm, a line squall of thunderstorms had developed from Washing, working rapidly to the northeastward.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Where did you get that information?
Lieutenant Commander Rogers. From the airways. The Department of Commerce maintains a system of air reports along all airways, and each station sends out weather reports, broadcasts over a broadcast receiver every 2 hours.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. You picked that up?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Yes, sir. We then inquired from Lakehurst and got what information they had from the ground and
we were able to get it all right, because the static had not yet gotten that bad. When the lightning became very violent to the eastward and southeastward, we lay off the coast waiting for it to pass, hoping, as these storms very often do, that it would pass. They move in a northeasterly or east northeast direction rather than due east, and we always find it helpful to go to sea, if we can, where we have less contrast in temperature between the land and the air. By that I mean the water changes practically none at all in temperature. It remains the same temperature all the time, so that you usually find smoother air over the water than over the land. When the storm continued to move to the eastward, we moved out to sea somewhat with it. A fog set in also, but fortunately there were enough clearings, lighter spots in the sky, to indicate that we would have a good chance to go through it. So we headed westward and speeded up to 60 knots, as I remember, which is eight-engine standard speed, and went through it without any turbulance at all.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Why did you go through it?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Because we wanted to get on the safe side of the line squall of thunderstorms where the air would be less turbulent and where you would have no further worry about thunderstorms. Once you get through the line you get into comparatively cold air, which is fairly stable. It may be a little rough, but it is stable as regards flying. There is no danger at all to such air.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. In these two instances, on the first occasion you tried to work west, to get to the west of the semicircle and found that impracticable.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Yes.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. You turned east and rode out the storm easterly.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Yes, sir.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. At sunrise the following morning we got through it.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. In improving weather, you came through it and went home.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Yes, sir.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. The weather had abated somewhat in its condition when you turned to go home.
Lieutenant Commander Rogers. Oh, yes; it had, although the storm had moved to the sea, it was much less violent over the water.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. In the second instance, you did not initially seek the western edge of the storm, did you !
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. We were naturally concerned about the thunderstorm, as anyone who flies always is. It is foolish to fool with something that you are not sure you know all about, but we were not particularly concerned about returning that night, because we had plenty of fuel on the ship.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. But you did not first start to go to the west of the storm.
Lieutenant Commander Rogers. No. because we first gave the storm an opportunity to move north ward along the coast, allowing us to stay in comparatively smooth air out to sea until it had passed, and we would in that way have evaded all the trouble.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. On the easterly edge of it.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. On the easterly edge of it, but well removed from the storm. When we saw the storm was approaching us, and it was a question of running away from it or through it, we took on speed and ran through it.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. The storm was to the west and south of you.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Nearly all storms move from the west to the east-not always.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. You were well out of all danger, away to the east of it?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Yes, sir; in clear air.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. In clear air until the storm approached so close to the ship we got into fog.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Then you hung around how long; all night?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. We went around between Philadelphia and Lakehurst that night, and landed in the morning at sunrise.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. When was it you went west through the storm to get on the westerly edge?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. About a half hour after dark-no; I guess it was later than that. It must have been nearer 11 o'clock, as I remember, because shortly after that we radioed to Lakehurst that we were in clear, smooth air and asked for their local conditions, thinking maybe we would make a night mooring at midnight; but they had dismissed the crew on our previous instruction that we would not require them until sunrise.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. What seems interesting is, given the axiom that seeking the western edge, your local and immediate conditions cause all sorts of tactical movements within that general principle.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. That is right.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Under a given condition, later working your way west.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. One's course must depend a great deal on your mission, the object of your flight. If we had been proceeding westward, with an object particularly some distance away. in the second case when I told you about lying off the coast, we would have changed that procedure by immediately going through while we still had daylight. That is the best time to go through any storm. There would have been no difficulty whatever about going westward, as long as we had daylight, because the storms are highly localized.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. From what one can derive here in this case, we are confronted with a condition of thunderstorms over Washington, then seemingly another low westward.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Apparently another front was coming in from the northwestward, in addition to the condition I described there was another line of thunderstorms coming from the northwest, which caused their zigzagging, seeking favorable air apparently.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. And the question arises here as to what the captain of the Akron should have done when confronted with that bad weather.
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. It is very difficult to say, because we don't have the information he had. He may not have had any information due to high static, so that he may have been going by horse sense, by his experience, and by the experience of the other officers on the ship with him. Apparently he first went eastward, thinking he could avoid the storms, just as I described in these two previous cases, but he found that a secondary was coming along the coast, up from the south over the water, and he did not improve his condition in any way by going eastward. He therefore reversed his course in an attempt to get through to the westward, just as we did in the other two cases. This time, however, he ran into much more severe conditions than we did apparently, because he again had changed his mind and ran back to the southeast. Well I think when he decided to go down to the scene of the disaster, he was running on the back side of the storm and ran back into a more severe one than he might have if he had continued westward.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Is there anything in this art that would make it definitely incumbent to continue on west instead of making that last change of course out east to the sea ?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. I imagine that they were very confused as to just where they were, having been in fog, so that they did not know where the ground was. You see, the Empire State Building is 1,200 feet high, and they could not go down much lower than they did, and they probably were somewhat worried about being over New York City. It was quite possible, with a southwest wind. It is only 50 or 60 miles away. If they couldn't get their drift to know which way the wind was blowing on the surface, they were really in a quandary. They did not know whether they were on the west side already, or whether they still had to pass the storm, whether they were in the danger side of the disturbance.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. Do you consider airships vital to a fleet, Commander ?
Lieutenant Commander ROGERS. Yes, sir; I do. I don't believe that the world appreciates the value of airships. We have had so many disasters, and we are inclined each time we have one to say, “Well, let us save a few lives and stop experimenting and trying to overcome nature." I think we would make a mistake if we did discontinue the use of airships. My belief is that the airship is very vital, a very vital part of any naval fleet.
If we are going to have a fleet at all, we should have a good one. Also in peace times. The time to build up a navy is in peace time, not wait until war to try to build the fleet. The best prepared navy, when going into war, is most apt to win, but a well-balanced navy is the only navy we should take into warfare. We should not take just a navy composed of battleships, or a navy composed only of destroyers or cruisers or submarines. We have got to have a wellbalanced navy, because there are certain missions each type of ship is best fitted for. In war time not every ship that is in the Navy
goes into battle. A great many ships never see combat, but their very presence acts as a threat to localize the battle, so that some units do get into the war, and that is my opinion about airships, that if we could have a number of airships for use as scouts and relieve the cruisers and destroyers that would normally be employed along the scouting line from that duty, in order to strengthen the main body, certainly the value of that fleet is enhanced, and in addition to that we are just now discovering the great value of airships as airplane carriers and we are going to further increase the value of airships by the fact that we can carry 5, 6, or 10 planes on a ship, use them as scouts, and remain hidden in the clouds away from the scene where we will not be discovered.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. What can the airship do that an airplane carrier cannot accomplish?
Lieutenant Commander Rogers. An airship can travel at twice the highest speed of an airplane carrier, for 10,000 miles. An airship can carry only perhaps 10 planes. I say 10, because it is just a question of providing perches underneath the airship to carry additional planes. I myself would prefer to see that rather than our present type of large hangar inside the ship. I would prefer to see a hangar large enough for one plane to perform an emergency overhaul, but to devote the rest of that space to lift, and keep the planes outside where they can be serviced and dropped off instantly. That is, of course, a matter of opinion, but an airship provided with 8 or 10 planes hanging on the outside, could fly approximately 10,000 miles at 50 knots, which is what we hope to make and will do. The Akron could not quite do that. She only had about 8,000 radius. The Macon will do better, we think.
The airplane carrier carries as many as 120 planes, but the airplane carrier itself has to be protected by a number of surface vessels which means she must remain more or less with the main body and the cruising radius of war planes equipped with guns, fighting planes, is so small that an airplane carrier, with all those planes, is very apt to be out of the scene of the battle when the planes are most needed.
If we are going to use planes as scouts, we have to provide some way to get them away from the fleet and get the information back so that the commander of the fleet can dispose his forces properly, and you can't do that with the airplane carrier right with the main body, because until we improve the radius of our planes, we can figure on only maybe 4 hours, say 200 to 400 miles, which is nothing compared with what an airship can do.
Colonel BRECKINRIDGE. What is your recommendation as to what should be the policy of the Government toward airships?
Lieutenant Commander Rogers. I think by all means we should continue our experimenting with airships. I would like to see another ship built. Not a facsimile of the Akron, or the Macon, necessarily, because I agree with Captain Dresel that her in-line propellers are not for the best efficiency. We thought they would be before we built them, and of course we could not change the Macon because it was a part of the contract. If we had our way, I think we should like to make a change in design to get these propellers out of line. Aside from that, I can't think of any way to improve this type of airship.