Flying Aircraft Carrier Crash Site Surveyed
The Navy zeppelin USS Macon was lost off the coast of California in heavy winds on February 12, 1935. This enormous airship was four times the length of a modern Goodyear blimp, and carried 100 crewmembers. More remarkably, the Macon was a "flying aircraft carrier" able to launch and retrieve reconnaissance airplanes in flight.
(USS Macon airship in hangar, 1935)
On September 17th of this year, Stanford engineers joined an expedition from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to explore the wreck. Deep-diving remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) with cameras were used to take more than 14,000 pictures detailing the crash site, which is now spread over 75,000 square feet of ocean floor. Over the next few months, these images will be combined and color corrected to form a complete image of the wreckage of this unique aviation experiment.
Built by the Goodyear-Zeppelin company in the early thirties, the Macon and its sister ship the Akron were constructed with rigid hulls of aluminum alloy. The ships were kept aloft by 12 helium-filled cells inside the hull; 6.5 million cubic feet of helium were used. Each airship was 785 feet long with a special internal hangars located about two-thirds of the way behind the nose of the airship, housing five light Sparrowhawk aircraft.
The Macon and the Akron were able to launch and recover the planes using a T-shaped opening in the floor of the hangar. A welded metal "sky hook" was attached to the top of each plane; the hook attached the plane to a trapeze. The trapeze with its attached plane was lowered through the hangar floor. Pilots revved their engines, yanked a release lever, and dropped into the air.
The retrieval process was a bit trickier. Piolots had to match speed with the rigid airship, and guide the hook back onto the trapeze. The whole assembly was then lifted back into the body of the airship.
The airships used eight Maybach 560-horsepower gasoline reversible engines to drive outboard propellers; speeds of up to eighty miles per hour were possible.
The concept of a "flying aircraft carrier" still fascinates us. In the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a 2004 movie directed by Kerry Conran and starring Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, the intrepid Sky Captain runs out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, a huge flying platform commanded by his friend Franky (played by Angelina Jolie) was in the area.
(Movie-style flying aircraft carrier with plane in foreground)
This improbably large craft had hundreds of crewmembers with dozens of aircraft; it was kept aloft by large downward-pointing rotors. This excellent film was shot almost entirely against a blue background; computer-generated graphics make enormous flying platforms possible in the movies, if not in real life.
(Movie-style flying aircraft carrier seen from below)
The photographic expedition by Stanford and MBARI will provide a fitting tribute and ending to the real-life airship Macon, whose great size and rumbling engines were a familiar part of life to students at Stanford in the early 'thirties.
Read more about the Stanford/MBARI expedition and the USS Macon
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/19/2006)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Britney Spears And Lynn Minmay - Weapons Of Choice
An attack can take many forms.
DARPA's Warrior Web
'Earth's scientists solved the problem to some extent by devising rigid metallic clothing not unlike armor...'- Edmond Hamilton, 1932.
What Camouflage Pattern Is Best?
If you can't see it, you're making progress.
UrbanSim Counterinsurgency Training App
'Why simulation?' 'He's beginning to do things I didn't anticipate.'
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!'
Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'
Handle, New Wheeled Hopping Robot
'the hopper sprang thirty feet into the air...'
Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!
Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'
Robotic Physician Assistant Has Steady 'Hands'
'You turned the screws below and the prongs moved... with caliper slowness, minuteness and precision.'
Roboy 3DPrinted Humanoid Robot
'A robot child that would be reared within the bosom of a human family...'
Robird Flapping Wing Drones Keep Airports Safe
'Mitch heard a rasping, flacketing buzz, like a big insect...'
3D Printed Fashion - Plastirobes And Transdresses
'... dial a new fashion every day!'
Robotic Lawn Mower Powered By Sun, Arduino
'The mower reached the edge of the lawn, clucked to itself like a contented hen...'
Google Perfects 'Blade Runner-style' Photo Details
'Pull back... stop... enhance 57-19...'
Pokerbot Libratus Learns To Lie (Bluff)
'Lying's a vital part of your psychological defense system - you're naked without it!'
Otto Autonomous Robot Trucks Run Into... Legal Snag
'They were automatic trucks such as are used for making deliveries...'
Tiny Drones With Sticky Feet Pollinate Flowers Now
'The Scarab rubbed its hind legs together...'
ThreeForm 3D Scans And Digitally Simulates Customer Fashion
'...A miracle of misapplied engineering caused his own face to appear on the illustrated figures dressed in trooper red.'
CloudFisher - Moroccan Fog Farmers Harvest Moisture From The Air
'That moisture trickles down...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories