|The LZ129 was meant to support the earlier
LZ127 „Graf Zeppelin“ which was not capable of handling the increased traffic
volume on its own. Start
of construction was in 1932, and after unsuccessful attempts to acquire
the safer helium from the USA, the highly explosive hydrogen gas had to
be used for lift. As a safety measure against fire, all passengers had
to submit theír matches and lighters, mainly fireproof materials
were used during construction, and the only room where smoking was allowed
was buried deep inside the passenger area, with the only lighter being
chained to the middle of the room!
The airship went on its first trials on march 4th, 1936, over the Lake Constance. Its first official appearance happened to be a propaganda cruise between march 26th and 29th, together with LZ127, where millions of leaflets were dropped onto german cities to encite the people to vote for Hitler a few days later. Regular service to south america started in autumn 1936, and the first trip to north america was scheduled for may 4th, 1937. With a crew of 36 and 60 passengers, the LZ129 approached Lakehurst in the evening of may 6th, when during the landing manoeuvre the airship’s stern exploded. Only seconds later, the giant structure was engulfed in flames and dropped to earth from about 60m (200ft) altitude. Nobody who witnessed the catastrophe could have believed anyone would escape from the inferno, but 61 survived the drama. The reasons were never fully uncovered, but to date the theory seems most probable that burnable materials (powdered aluminium oxide) were used to coat the outer sheath of the hull, and ignition was due to static electricity.
The USA were still reluctant to sell helium to the Deutsche Reich, and, consequently, this was the end for the Zeppelins.
Frame during construction
No. of cruises:
200.000 cubic metres
4 x Daimler Diesel / 1050hp each