A real "flying hotel"
The Hindenburg (Zeppelin LZ 129), by far the biggest airship in the world, was completed early last year and made her first flight in March, 1936. She was the last word in luxury and, for the class of vessel, of speed, yet she cost only £500,000.
She had 25 two-berth cabins giving accommodation on ocean crossings for 50 passengers. The habitable section was arranged on two decks. On the lower deck there was a smoking-room, chart-room, officers’ mess, kitchen and lavatories. The crew’s quarters and the luggage-hold were aft of the passenger accommodation. Hot or cold air could be turned on to the quarters according to need.
The Hindenburg could travel at least 8,000 miles without refuelling, while her cruising speed of 80 miles an hour was about ten miles an hour faster than that of the Graf Zeppelin, her sister ship. Her capacity of 5,400,000 cubic feet of gas, which was to have been helium, compared with 2,835,000 cubic feet of the Graf Zeppelin, which used hydrogen.
Her hull was 815 feet long and her total height, inclusive of gondolas, was 145 feet – nearly as high, that is, as Nelson’s Column. A total of 4,400 horse-power was produced by the four Diesel engines built into gondolas which the ship carried. The ship’s empty weight was 100 tons, while she carried on an average voyage nearly 50,000 pounds of mail and other cargo, together with a total passenger weight of between 7,000 and 8,000 pounds.
The outer covering of the airship was of cotton and linen, these fabrics having been found to have a better resistance to wind and weather than any others yet used. The "skin" was painted over with a cellulose varnish to which was added two or three coatings of aluminium. Structurally, there was hardly an inch of wood used; everything was built of feather weight metal duraluminium.
On the record flight
A correspondent to the "Manchester Guardian," who was on board the Hindenburg on the occasion of her record double crossing – five days, 19 hours, 51 minutes – in July last year, gave the following description
The decorations of the passenger quarters on the Hindenburg are light and simple. The bar and smoking-room had nine panels illustrating previous lighter-than-air vessels, one showing the first Zeppelin of 1900. To enter the smoking-room one passed through a revolving door into a minute bar presided over by a Cerberus-like German steward.
The lounge had on the wall facing the windows a huge map of the world showing famous voyages of history, from those of Leif Ericson and Magellan down to Dr. Eckener and the Graf Zeppelin. The reading and dining rooms were divided by panels depicting various places visited by the Hindenburg. The window-sills on both sides of the ship had strips of maps to help in identifying the places passed over.
The Hindenburg was the first Zeppelin in which passengers were allowed to smoke. The smoking-room was made of material as non-inflammable as asbestos. It was entered through an air-lock over which the steward of the bar had control. He would not let passengers out until their cigarettes had been left behind in a water-filled ashtray.
The Hindenburg completed her first flight across the North Atlantic on May 9 last year, taking 61 hours 45 minutes from Friedrichsshafen to Lakehurst. There was some anxiety at Lakehurst on that occasion as the nose of the ship approached the mooring mast. When the mooring rope was lowered the soldiers who had been specially commissioned to hold it down were not in the required part of the field. An official called upon a score of newspaper men and officials who were standing by to grab the rope, and they hung on until the Hindenburg was safely moored.
A more alarming experience occurred on a voyage from South America in April, 1936. The forward port engine broke down and the ship, running into foul weather off Gibraltar, wirelessed for and received permission to fly over France. No details of this "limping home" were given to the German public.
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