1929: The First Flight of a One-of-a-Kind Airship

August 19, 1929

In skies above the Detroit area, a one-of-a-kind airship manufactured for the U.S. Navy made its first flight. The ZMC-2 was created by the Detroit-based Aircraft Development Corporation and is the only successfully operated all-metal airship ever built. (ZMC stood for “Zeppelin Metal Clad.”) While nicknamed the “Tin Bubble,” the teardrop-shaped ZMC-2 — measuring 150 feet (46 meters) in length and 52 feet (16 meters) in diameter — was actually made out of corrosion-resistant aluminum material known as Alclad.   

“With naval officials looking on and Captain William C. Kepner at the controls, the dirigible remained aloft for forty-nine minutes, carrying its pilot and four other passengers to an altitude of 1,000 feet [304.8 meters],” reported the New York Times in its story about the airship’s inaugural ascent. After several other test flights in Michigan, the ZMC-2 was formally handed over to the Navy and taken to that military branch’s air station in Lakehurst, New Jersey. The ZMC-2 completed a total of 752 flights and logged in 2,265 hours up in the air during its time in Lakehurst.   

The airship’s final ascent took place in 1939 on the 10th anniversary of its first flight. All subsequent tests involving the ZMC-2 were conducted on the ground. The Navy initially considered using the ZMC-2 for anti-submarine patrols, but ultimately decided that it was too small for that purpose. After nearly a dozen years of operation, the airship was dismantled in 1941.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the ZMC-2, please check out https://www.blimpinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ZMC-2-The-Metal-clad-Airship.pdf

A video of the first flight of the ZMC-2 is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDRNY-COYxs

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