"Set the watches and pipe down."
February 12, 2006 10:05 PM   Subscribe

Desperate for Depression Era jobs, the communities of Santa Clara, Alameda, San Mateo and San Francisco raised 476,066 dollars to purchase 1000 acres of land in the fertile Santa Clara Valley and put their community in the running for the first West Coast base for rigid airships. On February 20th, 1933, President Hoover signed the bill that authorized the Navy to accept the Mountain View property. Half of the five million dollars appropriated for construction went to the building of Hangar One, the eventual home of the USS Macon. Sunnyvale Naval Air Station, commissioned on April 4th, 1933, was renamed Moffett Field after the death of RAdm William Moffett in the crash of the airship USS Akron. On February 12th, 1935, the USS Macon ditched off Point Sur, effectively ending the Navy's rigid airship program.
posted by oneirodynia (22 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Like her sister ship, the USS Akron, the Macon was a flying aircraft carrier,built by the Zeppelin-Goodyear Corporation and housing five experimental Curtiss Sparrowhawk fighter planes. Four of these planes now lie among the wreckage of the USS Macon.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:09 PM on February 12, 2006

Up ship! (Nice work.)
posted by mwhybark at 10:11 PM on February 12, 2006

Some blimpy goodness from Akron courtesy Google Maps.

It warms the cockles of my Rubber City heart to see the word "Akron" used so many times in an FPP.

And "Hangar One" makes great desktop wallpaper.
posted by slogger at 10:21 PM on February 12, 2006

Hangar One/Moffett Field is (literally) right up the street from my apartment.

There are ongoing rumors that the hangar might be torn down, but there is a group that is working to have the structure restored to its original state.

The Silicon Valley really is a bland landscape. The Google campus, as much as people drool over it, is hardly a landmark. Hangar One is a landmark and it'd be a shame to see it gone from the horizon.

Obligatory Wikipedia link to Moffett Field here. There's a decent aerial photo in the article.
(irrelevent sidenote: I had an IT contract that took me all over the NASA Ames Research Center. Fascinating place full of great people. A lot of the buildings have wonderful poster size photos of the facility throughout the years.)
posted by drstein at 10:46 PM on February 12, 2006

Aerial photo of Hangar 1. For fun, compare it to the 1930s view.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:47 PM on February 12, 2006

ahhh but darpa is building blimps again

I am the walrus,
posted by sourbrew at 11:30 PM on February 12, 2006

awesome post btw
posted by sourbrew at 11:32 PM on February 12, 2006

I love that building, but I had no idea what it was. Thanks for the post.
posted by cali at 11:48 PM on February 12, 2006

I love the pictures of the airships flying in formation from the first link.

Great FPP
posted by saraswati at 11:55 PM on February 12, 2006

This is a great post! Great photography!
posted by halonine at 12:14 AM on February 13, 2006

Great post, thanks.
posted by geekyguy at 3:41 AM on February 13, 2006

Hey, nathan, that stretch of dirt on the before picture is 101! Cool.
posted by NewBornHippy at 5:45 AM on February 13, 2006

Telling moments in the way that the military has and hasn't changed appear in the history, over on page 7 of that site.'

A commission set up to determine the cause of the ship's demise concluded that the blame belonged not to the crew, but to the Navy's refusal to repair the Macon's tail damage before it was sent on its ill-fated mission.

Nowadays, the fact that the brass decided to send it out incompletely repaired would probably be blamed on the ship's captain, and also have a pity comment from the Secretary of Defence about how you go into the air with the airship you have, not the airship you want.

No change:
The president responded by setting up a second commission, this one headed by Stanford Professor William F. Durand, to look into the future of airships.

The panel found that dirigibles had been used for purposes for which they were not intended and that they had not been given a fair opportunity to prove their value to the military. The commission concluded that these lighter-than-air craft should be given another chance. They were not.

No matter how prestigious the committee, someone will search for a way to knife a program to bring the pork home to their own district. The fact we still have a shuttle program, much less a NASA, after the shuttle accidents, is a miracle.
posted by mephron at 6:47 AM on February 13, 2006

Well the shuttle program is spread around, a lot. The fact that peices had to be shipped from all over is one of the limitations of the shuttle design.
posted by Mitheral at 8:07 AM on February 13, 2006

A sixty-year-old mystery concerning a Moffett airship still comes up from time to time.
posted by namret at 8:58 AM on February 13, 2006

I remember walking around in Hanger One when I was a kid and my dad was in the navy. I didn't know what it was for, only that it was friggin' huge. As I walked out of the hanger I turned to see a C5A Galaxy taxiing by on it's way to takeoff. Two big kahunas. . .
It would be a real loss to have it torn down, historical places like this need to be restored and shared with the populace.
Besides, when airships finally do make their return, they'll need a place to nestle inside. Hanger One would be perfect as a west coast airship hanger.
posted by mk1gti at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2006

For those going ga-ga over the airship hangars, I suggest you visit the hangars of the former Marine Corps Air Station at Tustin, California. They have plans to develope them for the community. By the way, they're among one of the largest wooden structures in the world.
posted by Atreides at 1:05 PM on February 13, 2006

Can someone tell me how to pronounce 'Macon'? Is it May-son, or May-kon, or what?

Totally foreign to Australian English.
posted by wilful at 2:33 PM on February 13, 2006

posted by mwhybark at 2:57 PM on February 13, 2006

Related: Even though blimps are suddenly becoming fashionable in military research circles again, the US is selling off its helium reserve under the terms of a 1996 law (and after a required NAS study).
posted by dhartung at 3:47 PM on February 13, 2006

More on the flying aircraft carrier trials here. Some planes were launched without landing gear: it was back to Mom or else. One of the Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawks designed for the USS Akron and Macon has been restored for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

With the arrival of the huge B-36 Peacemaker bomber after World War II, the concept was tested once more with the tiny XF-85 Goblin parasite jet fighter on a modified B-29.
posted by cenoxo at 11:17 PM on February 13, 2006

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