Moffett Field airship hangars
Hangars Two and Three
Moffett Field's Hangars Two and Three were built at the beginning of WWII for a program of coastal defense. They are still among the world's largest freestanding unsupported wood structures.
In 1940, the US Navy proposed to the US Congress the development of a lighter-than-air station program for anti-submarine patrolling of the coast and harbours. This program proposed the construction of new stations in addition to the expansion at Naval Air Stations (NAS) M and Lakehurst.
The original contract was for steel hangars rather than wooden ones, 960 feet (290 m) long, 328 feet (100 m) wide and 190 feet (58 m). Included at each site were helium storage and service, barracks for 228 men, power plant, landing apron, and a mobile mooring mast.
The Second Deficiency Appropriation Bill for 1941, passed on 3 July 1941, introduced strict control of strategic materials like steel causing a change in construction material to wood. Standardized plans were drawn up by the Navy Department Bureau of Yards and Docks, with Arsham Amirikian acting as principal engineer.
Hangars Two and Three at Moffett Field are 1,075 ft (328 m) long, 297 ft (91 m) wide and 171 ft (52 m) high, with an extruded parabolic form that reflected the profile of the airship vessels to be accommodated. A total of 51 Douglas Fir heavy-timber trusses resting on concrete bent frames contain the two-story shop and office areas. Two concrete and wood post and lintel structures support 121 ft (37 m) high multi-track rolling doors at either end.
A total of 17 wooden hangars were commissioned by the Navy Department Bureau of Yards and Docks in 1943, including those at NAS Lakehurst (2), NAS Moffett Field (2), NAS South Weymouth (1), NAS Weeksville (1), NAS Glynco (2), Naval Lighter Than Air Station Richmond (3), NAS Houma (1), NAS Hitchcock (1), Naval Lighter-Than-Air Station Santa Ana (2) and NAS Tillamook (2), with each hangar accommodating six airships.
Seven of the original seventeen wooden hangars still exist in the U.S.: Moffett Field (2), Tustin, California (2), Tillamook, Oregon (1), and Lakehurst, New Jersey(2).
These hangars have a monumental presence, and the Moffett Field pair, set within a paved expanse of the airfield, are a familiar landmark in the San Francisco Bay Area.
An episode of the Discovery Channel TV show MythBusters used one these hangars to disprove the myth that it is not possible to fold a sheet of paper in half more than seven times. The sheet of paper covered nearly the full width of the airship hangar. Other episodes of Mythbusters have utilized the hangar to test myths such as "Inflating a football with helium allows longer kick distances" and "Airworthy aircraft can be constructed of concrete."
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