USS Macon Crashes into Pacific
On this day in history, 1935, the USS Macon ran into a storm off the coast of Point Sur, California and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. An incident a few days prior to the disaster had weakened the upper vertical fin. Alterations to the initial design to allow an unobstructed fin view from the control car further negotiated strength.
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When the USS Macon approached Big Sur, the airship’s weakened fin broke in a wind shear. Pieces of structure punctured the rear gas cells and caused gas leakage. The captain then decided to drop large amounts of fuel, causing the Macon to rise quickly. This consequently forced automatic venting of more helium to prevent cells from rupturing during ascent.
After a 20 minute decent, the airship settled into the sea, and sank off Monterey Bay. Only two of the 83 crew members perished.
The 785-foot dirigible was operated by the United States Navy for scouting and served as a flying aircraft carrier, manufactured to carry biplane parasite aircraft. The helium-inflated airship could carry the five single-seat Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk for scouting or the two-seat Fleet N2Y-1 for training.
The airship was designed by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation, a partnership created in 1923 between the U.S. and German companies.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense