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NAVAL RIGID AIRSHIP DEVELOPMENT FROM 1918 TO 1930
Investment approximately $50,000,000 represented in-
$15, 000, 000 Lakehurst and equipment.
12, 000, 000 British airship R-38..
3, 000, 000 Los Angeles, value.
2, 000, 000 All-metal airship
300, 000 Airships ZRS-4 and ZRS-5.
8, 000, 000 Operations and investigations.
10, 000, 000 The rigid airship development is represented by the following endeavors:
1. The British airship R-38, a war airship reconditioned to meet U.S. Navy requirements. The airship R-38 was modeled from German airships captured during the World War.
2. The Shenandoah, an experimental airship, was developed from drawings furnished by the French Government, which drawings were made from the German airship L-49, captured by the French during the war, 1917.
3. The all-metal airship, a refined development of the German Schwarz experimental all-metal rigid airship, 1897, the plans of which were the foundation or the first 24 Zeppelin airships.
4. The Los Angeles a German reparation airship, an exemplified model of the small Zeppelin commercial airship Bodensee, built in 1919.
5. The airships ZRS-4 and ZRS-5, designs based largely upon the designs of the fated British Admiralty airship R-101.
RESPONSIBILITY, U.S. NAVY AIRSHIP DESIGNS
Former Naval Constructor Hunsacker, in charge of Naval Airship Development
1918-26 1. Identified with negotiations for purchase and reconditioning of the British airship R-88, to meet United States Navy requirements, in 1919–21.
2. Opposed the acquisition by the Navy Department, in 1920, of the SchuetteLanz fundamental foundation, technical data and plans, giving as his reason that the British airships were superior to the German designs.
3. In charge of the designs of the Shenandoah, 1918–24. Obtained information therefor from British and French sources.
4. Assistant naval attaché, London, 1925–26, for the purpose of acquiring information regarding designs and the development of the British airships for use in the development of designs for the United States naval airships ŽRS-4 and ZRS-5.
5. Resigned from the Navy Department November 2, 1926, to accept the position of vice president of the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation. Identified with the designing of the Navy airships ZRS-4 and ZRS-5, in cooperation with the Navy Department. General manager for the International Zeppelin Transport Co.
The foregoing presentation develops the fact that the United States Government is today without any fundamental foundation whatsoever upon which to base its development of the superairship.
(Sources of information: Government records, official and public; Naval Committee hearings; public advertisements, photographs, and newspaper articles issued and published by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation and British records, publications, and photographs.)
PERTINENT INFORMATION FROM NAVAL HEARINGS
Excerpts, statement of Rear Admiral W. A. Moffett, January 28, 1926.
“To sum it all up, the proposed airship will follow basically the type of construction already proved successful for rigid type of airships and will depart therefrom only where such departure is necessary on account of increased size of ship or where some very clear advantage can be gained by departing from conventional lines. The result will be a much improved airship, but will not involve any radically new developments.
Excerpts, statement of Rear Admiral W. A. Moffett, December 2, 1924.
“The Shenandoah started as part of a war project for dirigibles. The question was discussed by the joint board of the Army and Navy. They had no one in this country who knew anything about it, and the information had to be 938
obtained; so they discussed the question as to who would undertake building of these ships. It was allotted to the Bureau of Construction and Repair who were trained in similar work; that is, in the construction of ships.
“So the Bureau of Construction and Repair--this was before our bureau was formed, of course-undertook to do this. They sent people to England to get what information they could. They got information from as many sources as possible, including the German ship L-49, Zeppelin, that landed in France and with all that information they started the design and the construction of the Shenandoah. She was designed largely under the direction of Commander Hunsacker, assisted by Mr. Truscott and Mr. Burgess, two civilian experts.
“I would say that, considering the information we had, our people did a very creditable piece of work in the design and also in the construction. Dr. Schuette from Germany was here (visited Lakehurst January 24-25, 1923) and he said that the workmanship on the Shenandoah was better than that they are doing in Germany. It shows in the details of the workmanship. The Germans (Žeppelins) were probably trying to save every cent they possibly could, and they may not have done as finished a job as possible, but the Los Angeles is very well built and is of more recent design, and we feel that the information we got is very valuable.”
HEARINGS: COMMITTEE ON NAVAL AFFAIRS, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Excerpts, statement of Comdr. Ralph D. Weyerbacher, January 20, 1926, naval constructor in charge of construction of Shenandoah.
The CHAIRMAN. Did you build the Shenandoah?
Commander WEYERBACHER. The design was in charge of Commander Hunsacker, Construction Corps, l'nited States Navy.
The CHAIRMAN. If Congress should authorize at this session of Congress the construction of another airship, the appropriation therefor could not be made until the next session. In the meanwhile we have a good opportunity to get the experience of these two big ships built in England? I understand that these ships will be ready for commission in 4 or 5 months.
Commander WEYERBACHER. Commander Hunsacker, who is the assistant naval attaché at London, is getting all the information available over there concerning new developments of this kind.
The Chairman. In giving the Navy Department authority to construct one of these ships, of course it would not attempt to dictate the details. That determination would be left to you who are experts in such work. When will we get the inforination that Commander Hunsacker is gathering over there about this matter?
Commander WEYERBACHER. He is permanently assigned to London, but he is expected back next spring for permanent duty here. (1926.) These English ships are 5,000,000 cubic feet capacity, and they have a ratio of 7 to 1 making them more than 700 feet long.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you any ideas about the construciion of a new airship somewhat along the lines of the late Shenandoah, perhaps larger?
Commander WEYERBACHER. I have; but I would like to make a statement first.
“The policy that is adopted by this committee should be guided by the advice given by airship experts, not controlled by an opinion, which is influenced by disasters and loss of life. Civilization marches onward-airships are necessary to its advancement. All personnel who have studied and who have had experience in airships believe in airships, and their faith increases with their experience.
“We can build airships and as experiences are obtained, and as new discoveries are brought forward, they will be increased in size and their performance improved. The airship presents a very complicated operating problem.
“It is very important that if we go into this building that we should do so whole-heartedly and not on a half-way basis. The matter of continuous development is very important, and we should have the advantage of the trained personnel and other conditions that will give us a fair chance for success.
“I have not been directly associated with airships since 1924, but I can state with confidence that the experience obtained from the operation of the Shenan
1 The Shuette-Lanz airship building plants at Mannheim-Rheinau and Zeesen were classed by the Inter-Allied Commission as war industries and were demolished in 1921-22, and were not permitted to compete for the construction of the United States reparation airship Los Angeles.
doah and Los Angeles would be profitably incorporated in a new design, and that the ship will have incorporated in it the best knowledge that obtained. The size of a new ship would be determined by study and from the experience obtained.
“I would build the biggest ship possible. Experience has taught me that if you make a too great advance in any structure, you are treading on dangerous ground, and to think of making an increase of 300 percent or 600 percent may be unsafe.
“I would not exactly copy after anybody for by so doing you do not get ahead of them."
Mr. WOODRUFF. You spoke a while ago of the disadvantages of the copying after any other nation.
Commander WEYERBACHER. Yes, sir; in doing so one always keeps behind the other fellow, while we want to get ahead.
Mr. WOODRUFF. Due to the fact that England is building them with a gas capacity of 5,000,000 cubic feet, do you think that is as far as the United States should go in the development of this kind?
Commander WEYERBACHER. I have not made a careful analysis of this problem, and therefore cannot give you as valuable an opinion as Commander Fulton or Mr. Truscott could give.
Mr. MAGEE. You spoke about the undesirability of copying somebody else's plan.
Commander WEYERBACHER. We would follow the Zeppelin type of construction, known as the rigid, and increase the strength in places where it is necessary to give the maximum factor of safety—that is possible.
Excerpts, statement of Naval Constructor Garland Fulton, January 26, 1926, supervisor of construction Los Angeles in Germany, 1922–24.
"The development of any art depends upon the number of units that have been built. That is to say, we profit by experience in building. There have been approximately 150 rigid airships built today, and most of those were of two war types.
Rigid airship development to date should be judged on the basis of the relatively few units that have been built. The more units built, the more experience, brains, and ideas one may bring upon the problems of construction and operation. Here in the United States we have had only two rigid airships.
"At the same time, in my opinion, the United States leads the world in rigid airship development. We are on the threshold and ready to go ahead in the production of big and better airships. If, on the other hand, we fold our tents, all the organization and development work to date will be dissipated, and we will never be able to recover the lost position except at the expenditure of large sums of money and great loss of time.
“The United States is better prepared today than any other nation to build airships. We have within our confines more rigid airship knowledge than any other nation on earth. I speak about that not only in relation to the Navy Department because there is in this country the best brains that the Zeppelin Co. developed in the building of more than 100 airships. That has been brought to this country by a patriotic American--it is Mr. Litchfield.
“The Navy Department either alone or in collaboration with that group which has had more experience in building than has had the Navy Department, is equipped to go ahead and build an airship of, say, 6,000,000 cubic feet capacity. That ship would be an improved Los Angeles, if you will consider it such. It would not be different in principle. It would follow basieally the same proved principles of construction, but it would contain a number of improvements.
“It would be a fine thing if, at the same time, we could have a program for progressive development. We need a program for trained personnel for airship work. The personnel that has devoted its time to airships for construction to date is quite limited because of the fact that we have had only two airships. We have been able to operate on only one at a time.”
HEARINGS, SENATE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS Excerpts, statement of Captain Land, January 13, 1927, Assistant Chief Bureau of Aeronautics.
Senator BROUSSARD. How many men could you carry, say, to the Panama Canal?
Captain LAND. You could do the same as the British could do; you could carry a hundred men from here to Panama.
Senator Hale. Probably 100 would be the maximum number?
Captain LAND. I should think so, because this ship is really paralleling the British development.
HEARINGS, COMMITTEE ON NAVAL AFFAIRS, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Mr. Vinson. Have you the facilities at Lakehurst, N.J., including the engineering staff, sufficient to build a rigid airship of approximately 6,000,000 cubic feet volume?
Admiral MOFFETT. Yes; we could do it. It could be done. The design we have now and by which we would build it was perfected in cooperation with the Goodyear Co. The design in fact belongs to that company and it will not sell it.
Mr. Vinson. The Secretary of the Navy, however, has the right to purchase this design?
Admiral MOFFETT. Yes; if they would sell it.
Mr. DARROW. Admiral Moffett, I take it that in your estimate of $4,000,000 for the construction of one of these rigid airships you have not taken into consideration what you might have to pay the Goodyear Co. for the plans.
Admiral MOFFETT. No, sir; we have not.
Mr. Darrow. The plans, as you say a little while ago, belong to the Goodyear Co.
Admiral MOFFETT. Yes, sir; and they have refused to sell them and have not accepted the $50,000 prize.
Mr. Vinson. And you would be in the same position with reference to your manufacturing of lighter-than-air craft as the Navy yards are about the construction of vessels, that is to say, you would have a competitive plant, and that would result in better terms for construction of aircraft?
Admiral MOFFETT. Yes, sir; that is true.
Mr. VINSON. So that so long as the Government is out of the picture it might be confronted with the same situation from year to year—the disability to get somebody to bid and build within the amount of money actually appropriated.
Admiral MOFFETT. Yes, sir; that is it.
Mr. VINSON. While you recognize that the Government desires to stimulate commercial aviation-commercial-aviation industries-as much as possible, yet at the same time you appreciate the fact that the Government must not be placed in a position where it cannot compete and whereby it will have to make increased appropriations to build the ship. The Government can build this ship for $4,000,000. What business is it on the part of the Government to give this work to the Goodyear Co. for one ship at more than $4,000,000 or two ships at the other figure? Admiral MOFFETT. This is only an estimate. It is only a set-up.
Mr. VINSON. Are you in position to make an accurate estimate as to what it would cost the Government in comparison with the Goodyear Co.?
Admiral MOFFETT. Yes, sir; but I may say that data on the cost of production of airships are very uncertain. There is, in fact, very little dependable data to base conclusions upon.
Mr. Vinson. We are a big country and we do not want to be dependent upon any one enterprise. We want to be in a position to compete, because competition will increase the design skill. If the Goodyear Co. had more competition, their engineering branch would probably fbe more on their toes and be as active as possibly could be to find and devise new methods, but so long as we have only one concern in the work we may not make as fast progress as the art would demand. With only one concern the inclination would be toward stagnation, I would say.
Admiral MOFFETT. I think that is true, but the Goodyear Co. is the only firm in this country that is willing to do this work. On the other hand, if it should succeed in this effort, that would tend to stimulate other companies to going into building such ships.
(Berlin-Lichterfelde, den 31. 10.30, Annastrasse 1A; Herrn Rechtsanwalt Dr. Otto von Schrenk, New York
HONORABLE Doctor: You have probably read in the newspapers that England has appointed an investigating commission in order to ascertain the cause of the disaster of the R-101. Without awaiting the verdict, I submit to you my opinion.
From all the details I have so far learned, I say in truly German phraseology, that the construction of the skeleton was, from the outset, botched and bungled.. The building height of the English nontensioned cross-wired rings is ca 3 m (9.84 feet) so that the cross section of these triangular rings is 4.50 m (14.8 feet). The English constructors acted on the assumption that they had to leave the inner space of the ring empty, that is, that it was not to be equipped with an inflated gas cell. They were of the opinion that the loss in lifting power to the neglect to utilize these nontension wired transverse rings was negligible, considering the size of the ship. With a central diameter of 28 m. (91.84 feet) there results a volume of 537 cbm. (18,956 cubic feet) and thus with hydrogen a loss of lifting power of ca 600 kgm. (1,320 pounds) per ring. I do not think at all that such a loss of lifting power may be valued as tolerable.
It goes however, without saying, that the skeleton may be so solidly constructed that it not only is able to stand this loss in lifting power, but even the running empty of a great gas cell. But I can not help doubting whether this was the case with the ship. It seems to me that the afterbody of the ship was too heavy and that just by the elongation in the middle ship, dictated by an afterthought, the dangerous effort of the overheavy afterbody was accentuated. The voyage to the Indies was, as I understand, undertaken after a not entirely satisfactory trial trip.
can imagine that due to the foul weather and heavy squalls the heavily loaded ship (the effect of the rain was an additional load) the afterbody may have suffered a breaking-in. As a matter of course, thereby the steering apparatus was impeded in its function. Supposing, that the very long afterbody of the ship has only suffered some slight breaking in, due to its length it would have the effect of downward steering. To counteract this, it was necessary to steer energetically upward. Thus great pressure was exerted upon the afterbody and, if there was an initial breaking in the effect could not be but extremely deleterious. It is a mere possibility that with the first steering upward the ship was able once more to lift up its nose, but then its fate was inevitable.
After duly considering all these circumstances, I still am of the opinion that they did not necessarily condition a conflagration or an explosion. Our own ships occasionally got in touch with roofs of houses or trees without coming thereby to wreck and ruin, and much less to be consumed by fire. The conflagration must have been caused by a factor not mentioned so far, and will, in all probability, never entirely be cleared up. Cordial greeting. Sincerely yours,
(From Aus Archiv. für publizistische Arbeit (Intern. Biogr. Archiv.), Berlin-Wannsee ME-AN 15.1.1929
DR. KARL ARNSTEIN, GERMAN ENGINEER AND VICE PRESIDENT OF THE GOODYEAR
Karl Arnstein was born in 1887 as the son of poor Jewish parents in Prague. Even as a child he showed extraordinary talents for mathematics. He studied at the technological college in Prague, at the same time taking the German University courses in mathematics and philosophy. His great gifts impressed Professor Malan in Prague; he procured for Arnstein a position as assistant for bridge building. A design for the Lorrain Bridge in Bern, submitted by Arnstein at this time, was awarded a prize. In 1911 Arnstein was employed by the bridge builders' concern E. Zueblin in Strassburg. Here among other achievements of his excellent technique he constructed on the route Chur-Arosa a railroad bridge which at that time was the longest free-span bridge in existence. The spire of the Strassburg Cathedral whose collapse seemed imminent, owes to Arnstein a new foundation which averted the catastrophe.
In the meantime Arnstein had achieved world fame as statician in the field of statics). Thus in 1915 Count Zeppelin called him to Friedrichshafen. Here he found an extensive working field where he could develop his eminent gifts to the utmost. He created the statical and constructional foundation for the system of rigid airships which is still followed in the construction of all modern airships, those of foreign countries included. The last sixty Zeppelin airships were designed by Arnstein who likewise had a considerable share in their construction. We mention here the famous ZR III, the first airship to cross the Atlantic ocean and among the latest mammoth airships the Dizmuiden as Arnstein's work.
Since fall, 1924, Arnstein is general director and vice president of the GoodyearZeppelin Co. in Akron, Ohio. At present, in this establishment by order of the American Navy Department under his supervision two gigantic airships are