The U.S.S. Macon (ZRS-5), a 785-foot dirigible seen flying over lower Manhattan. The Macon served as an aircraft carrier for the US Navy before falling into the Pacific after being damaged in a storm off Big Sur, California. Photo: US Naval Historical Center.
This week, over 80 years after the world’s largest helium-powered “flying aircraft carrier” the U.S.S. Macon sank beneath the waves, E/V Nautilus will be conducting a new archaeological survey of the wreck site, and you can watch video footage in real time on August 18th by tuning in to Nautilus Live.
Above: The USS Macon begins construction in the Goodyear-Zeppelin hangar at Akron, Ohio. Photo: US Naval Historical Center.
The U.S.S. Macon and sister ship Akron (ZRS-4) were two of the world’s largest flying ships–only about 20 feet shorter than the similarly ill-fated Hindenburg–and today, remain the world’s largest helium-buoyed airships ever built.
The Macon berthed a squadron of five Sparrowhawk scout planes which, using a “skyhook” (see image above) could launch and retrieve the aircraft in midair. Photo: Public Domain.
Sadly, neither the Akron nor the Macon lived through their first two years of service. The Akron was first to go, destroyed in a thunderstorm off New Jersey in 1933. (The Akron also holds the gloomy distinction of being involved in the greatest loss of human life aboard an airship. Only 3 of the 76 passengers aboard survived the crash.)
Two years later on the United States’ west coast, the Macon followed her sister ship’s fate.