Hydrogen Exonerated in 1937 Hindenburg Disaster

Discussion in 'Fred's House of Pancakes' started by hb06, May 9, 2007.

  1. hb06

    hb06 Member

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    Saw the most interesting documentary about the real cause of the 1937 Hindenburg Disaster on the History Channel last night.

    The gist of the documentary is contained in the following National Hydrogen Association newsletter:

    "The memory of the spectacular destruction of the Hindenburg airship affects people’s perception of hydrogen and their acceptance of the gas as an energy source. The lighter-than-air craft burst into flame—in full view of a crowd of reporters and newsreel cameras—while landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey, U.S.A., on 6 May 1937. Hydrogen has long taken the blame for the disaster, which effectively ended travel by zeppelin."

    "But retired NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] engineer and long-time hydrogen advocate Addison Bain, who has been conducting extensive research on the incident, concludes that hydrogen played no part in starting the Hindenburg fire."

    "...it was the extreme flammability of the Hindenburg’s fabric envelope which caused the disaster and not the lifting gas inside."

    http://www.hydrogenassociation.org/newsletter/ad22zepp.htm
     
  2. Stev0

    Stev0 Honorary Hong Kong Cavalier

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    If Bush were president back then, he'd claim, as it was burning, that it's "doing a heckuva job flying" and expects "that it will continue flying as usual."
     
  3. airportkid

    airportkid Will Fly For Food

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    I can't recall if it was Nevil Shute in his autobiographical "Slide Rule" or someone else that pointed out that the dope used to tighten the fabric covering of those behemoths was essentially the same stuff as rocket fuel at the time.

    For an amazing account of just how badly a government bureaucracy and idiots in high places can mangle technological progress, Nevil Shute's "Slide Rule" casts an unsparing eye on the development of Britain's R-101 dirigible and its fate.

    Mark Baird
    Alameda CA
     
  4. rudiger

    rudiger Active Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(HBO6 @ May 9 2007, 09:23 PM) [snapback]438726[/snapback]</div>
    I'd seen that show, too. The famous photos and film of the Hindenburg disaster which would seem to incorrectly attribute the source of the explosion to the hydrogen within has undoubtedly had the effect of maligning hydrogen as dangerous and unstable for the next seventy years.

    It's actually quite pertinent considering hydrogen holds the potential of being an alternative fuel source for autos.
     
  5. Mystery Squid

    Mystery Squid Junior Member

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    Blimps are awesome. If I ever become fantastically wealthy, instead of a jet, I'm going to have an ultra-luxurious blimp.
     
  6. hb06

    hb06 Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(airportkid @ May 9 2007, 07:29 PM) [snapback]438762[/snapback]</div>
    That was what the documentary stated, that the coating used on the fabric on this particular air ship (not the others) included iron oxide and powdered aluminum (for the visual effect), both elements of rocket fuel. It was a coverup with the German engineers fully realizing the risks of this coating.
     
  7. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

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    This is old news. It's been known for a long time that it was the fabric that burned, not the hydrogen.

    Another point: most of the people who died were the ones who jumped. The dirigible settled slowly to Earth as the hydrogen escaped, and most of the people who remained on board survived. I think a few people might have gotten burned.

    There has never been a death associated with a helium-filled airship in their entire history. Blimps and dirigibles have tremendous lifting power, and the potential to be used to carry items of freight too big for other means of transportation.

    When my mother was a little girl she saw the Graff Zeppelin. She was so excited she ran home to tell her parents about it, forgetting to bring her little sister with her. "Where's Claire?" my grandmother asked. My mother was panic-stricken: "Oh no!!! I've lost my sister!!!" She ran all the way back to school to find my aunt waiting calmly for her, unperturbed.
     
  8. airportkid

    airportkid Will Fly For Food

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(daniel @ May 10 2007, 07:14 AM) [snapback]439037[/snapback]</div>
    In the late 80s or early 90s the owner of a small private blimp was killed at the Hayward airport when, attempting to moor it, it got away from him and pulled him into the air. He finally let go of the mooring line several hundred feet above the ground, unable to hang on after about five minutes (and perhaps resigned to the fact that he'd never get down again). The pilotless blimp drifted for several hours, slowly losing helium (a valve left open?) and eventually came to rest in trees atop the Hayward hills, partially deflated. If the pilot could've somehow wrapped the mooring line around his arm or otherwise been able to secure himself to it to relieve his muscles (without creating a tourniquet) he could have survived - but that would have been extremely difficult with his weight on the line, and the lack of purchase anywhere, swinging and twisting at the end of that thing, and probably terrified out of his mind.

    There was a similar incident with one of the Navy's dirigibles (Macon, Akron or the Los Angeles) when the tail hove up into the sky during mooring, taking several men up on one line. I don't recall whether all, some or none of them survived.

    MB

    (Forgot to mention that the wayward blimp didn't drift into the trees, it was driven into the trees by a helicopter that used its rotor downwash to blow the blimp down into them).
     
  9. Loveit

    Loveit New Member

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    I was under the impression that the fire of the blimp was started by a careless crew member who was smoking a cigarette at the time. Is that correct or not? Just curious.
     
  10. hb06

    hb06 Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(loveit @ May 10 2007, 10:10 AM) [snapback]439219[/snapback]</div>
    A highly charged atmosphere due to ongoing thunderstorms in the area created the electrostatic charge causing the highly flammable fabric covering of the air ship to catch fire.
     
  11. Pinto Girl

    Pinto Girl New Member

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Mystery Squid @ May 9 2007, 11:00 PM) [snapback]438818[/snapback]</div>
    Actually, the Hindenburg wasn't a blimp; it was a rigid airship...

    Not that I care, of course...

    ------

    My home used to be right next to the Rose Bowl in SoCal; there was a superbowl there during the early 90's I believe, and blimps were **everywhere** ...it got me wondering, if two blimps ran into each other, if they'd just bounce...?

    It was fascinating how their angle of attack would vary so greatly from their direction of travel.

    -------

    Ahhh [wistfully] this talk of airships and blimps is taking me back...back...back...

    I remember, I think it was 1993...SuperBowl XXXVI or some combination of Roman numerals...we were selling parking on our driveway ($25 per car; playing parking attendant on special event days was FUN!)...anyway, I remember thinking how, back then at least, there was a sort of hierarchy of blimps, and how what had stood for decades was just then being challenged...

    The Goodyear blimp(s) --the company having been bought by the Japanese not long before, could you believe it!!-- were the old favorites, with their big passenger cabs and larger envelopes, with the automated light displays built in...

    Thing is, these older blimps had their engines rigidly attached to the cab and relied on just the rudders to change direction...whereas a then new generation of smaller 'upstart' blimps were rapidly challenging the social order, with swivelling engines and greater speed and maneuverability, and smaller size/lighter weight/lower operating costs...

    Interestingly (to me anyway) while these new blimps didn't have the automatad messaging of the Goodyear(s)-- they were LIT FROM INSIDE so the entire blimp glowed as dusk fell on the (drastically lopsided) game. Even worse, there were **lots** of these upstarts, and only one of the Goodyears present (out of I believe three total)...and Goodyear couldn't even make any more!!

    It was heresy! First Goodyear was now out of the blimp business...now this?!?

    The two types didn't play well together, either. The Goodyear needed to fly faster and couldn't turn as quickly, so it tended to orbit in a fairly predictable counter clockwise pattern...while the upstart blimps were clearly disrespecting it. They maintained no clearly set pattern, passing and turning inside the Goodyear, sometimes orbiting in the opposite direction...

    How dare they!

    To make it worse, there was yet another type of blimp, and a loner, too --the Family Channel Blimp-- a small, two person type that flew slower than either of the others; this one served primarily as a moving obstacle for the planes towing banners...

    Am I oversharing?

    --------

    "The blimp tradition began in 1925 when Goodyear built its first helium-filled public relations airship, the Pilgrim. The tire company painted its name on the side and began barnstorming the United States. Humble beginnings to an illustrious history...

    Over the years, Goodyear built more than 300 airships, more than any other company in the world. Akron, Ohio, the company's world headquarters, was the center of blimp manufacturing for several decades.

    Today, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company no longer mass-produces airships. In the United States it operates three well-recognized blimps: the Spirit of Goodyear, based in Akron, Ohio; the Spirit of America, based in Carson, California; and the Spirit of Innovation, in Pompano Beach, Florida."

    ---------

    Uh oh, not only have I now overshared, but I've hijacked the thread, too...

    Nevermind.

    ---------

    Okay, bringing it back around...

    I do remember reading that the US has something like 90% of all the world's helium reserves; the Germans had asked for helium for the Hindenburg and their other Zeppelins, but it was denied on the grounds that the gas had 'strategic value' ...they used hydrogen instead (which has greater lifting power than helium anyway)...

    That's how I recall the story as it was taught to me when I was young...that somehow our denial of helium to the Germans caused the accident. I'm glad it wasn't quite this way.
     
  12. hyo silver

    hyo silver Awaaaaay

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(rudiger @ May 9 2007, 10:43 PM) [snapback]438769[/snapback]</div>
    Not nearly as much potential as electricity. It's cheaper, more efficient, and we already have most of the infrastructure in place. It should be a no-brainer. Ask Darrell. Say this ten times fast: Hydrogen is Hype.

    Anyone who worries about the explosiveness of hydrogen in their tank hasn't given much thought to what's there now. :huh:

    Sorry for the interruption. Back to airships. :)
     
  13. JimN

    JimN Let the games begin!

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(airportkid @ May 10 2007, 10:50 AM) [snapback]439130[/snapback]</div>
    As I recall my aviation history all 3 of the Navy's airships crashed in bad weather causing loss of life. Goodyear may have been an airship pioneer but Germany was bombing England from airships during World War I. I think the USS Los Angeles was a German zeppelin acquired as reparations. The Navy tried flying small fighters from the airships with extremely limited success. The Smithsonian has one of the planes.

    The airships were very majestic but in the end not very practical. They were the SST of their day.
     
  14. daniel

    daniel Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

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    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(airportkid @ May 10 2007, 08:50 AM) [snapback]439130[/snapback]</div>
    I stand corrected. My information is out of date. I bet I read what I did before the accidents you cite.

    <div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Pinto Girl @ May 10 2007, 10:36 AM) [snapback]439259[/snapback]</div>
    Hydrogen has more lifting power, but only by a little bit. Normal helium has 4 times the atomic weight of hydrogen, but hydrogen combines to H2, making it half the molecular weight, but in addition, helium is very anti-social, so that the atoms tend to stay farther apart than the molecules of H2. The result is that there is less difference in their lifting power than might othewise be thought.
     
  15. Stringmike

    Stringmike New Member

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    My grandmother lived in England in Chatham, Kent, near the naval docks during WW 1 and witnessed the first aerial bombardment of Britain by the Zeppelins. They were not a military success in this role, but gave a wake-up call to the British military who thought their navy would keep the island safe from attack.

    She told me that the local population at the time were terrified and it certainly was a frightening sight. They appeared to be very big and flew quite low. However, the airships proved to be very vulnerable to incendiary bullets - hydrogen, fabric or both.

    Mike
     
  16. Lywyllyn

    Lywyllyn New Member

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