USS Shenandoah (ZR-1) – One of four airships commissioned by the US Navy – over Fort Bragg

This picture floated across my screen:

Shenandoah Airship over Fort Bragg

Wow, says I, a US Navy airship over Fort Bragg! Tell me more.

Per Wiki ….. “USS Shenandoah was the first of four United States Navy rigid airships. It was constructed during 1922–23 at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, and first flew in September 1923. It developed the U.S. Navy’s experience with rigid airships, and made the first crossing of North America by airship. On the 57th flight, Shenandoah was destroyed in a squall line over Ohio in September 1925.

Diagram of the Shenandoah

The photo says that the flight over Fort Bragg was on October 17th – but which year? More from Wiki …….

Shenandoah was originally designated FA-1, for “Fleet Airship Number One” but this was changed to ZR-1. The airship was 680 ft long and weighed 36 tons. It had a range of 5,000 miles, could reach speeds of 70 mph.  Shenandoah was the first rigid airship to use helium rather than hydrogen, Shenandoah had a significant edge in safety over previous airships. Helium was relatively scarce at the time, and the Shenandoah used much of the world’s reserves just to fill its 2,100,000 cubic feet of gas bags. Shenandoah was powered by 300 hp, eight-cylinder Packard gasoline engines. Six engines were originally installed, but in 1924 one engine (aft of the control car) was removed. The first frame of Shenandoah was erected by 24 June 1922; on 20 August 1923, the completed airship was floated free of the ground. Helium cost $55 per thousand cubic feet at the time, and was considered too expensive to simply vent to the atmosphere to compensate for the weight of fuel consumed by the gasoline engines. Neutral buoyancy was preserved by installing condensers to capture the water vapor in the engine exhaust.

Shenandoah first flew on 4 September 1923. It was christened on 10 October 1923 by Mrs. Edwin Denby, wife of the Secretary of the Navy, and commissioned on the same day with Commander Frank R. McCrary in command. Mrs. Denby named the airship after her home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and the word shenandoah was then believed to be a Native American word meaning “daughter of stars”.

Captain of the Shenandoah at the controls

In July 1924, the oiler Patoka put in at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for extensive modifications to become the Navy’s first airship tender. An experimental mooring mast 125 ft  above the water was constructed; additional accommodations both for the crew of Shenandoah and for the men who would handle and supply the airship were added; facilities for the helium, gasoline, and other supplies necessary for Shenandoah were built, as well as handling and stowage facilities for three seaplanes. Shenandoah engaged in a short series of mooring experiments with Patoka to determine the practicality of mobile fleet support of scouting airships. The first successful mooring was made on 8 August. During October 1924, Shenandoah flew from Lakehurst to California and on to Washington State to test newly erected mooring masts. This was the first flight of a rigid airship across North America.

USS Patoka

On 2 September 1925, Shenandoah departed Lakehurst on a promotional flight to the Midwest that would include flyovers of 40 cities and visits to state fairs. Testing of a new mooring mast at Dearborn, Michigan, was included in the schedule. While passing through an area of thunderstorms and turbulence over Ohio early in the morning of 3 September, during its 57th flight, the airship was caught in a violent updraft that carried it beyond the pressure limits of its gas bags. It was torn apart in the turbulence and crashed in several pieces near Caldwell, Ohio.

Based on the above it looks like the year was 1924. It will remain 1924 till I get told different!!!!!