USS Los Angeles (ZR-3)
|ZR-3 Los Angeles|
|USS Los Angeles flying over southern Manhattan|
|First flight||27 August 1924|
|Introduction||25 November 1924|
|Retired||30 June 1932|
|Primary user||United States Navy|
The USS Los Angeles was a rigid airship, designated ZR-3, which was built in 1923–1924 by the Zeppelin company in Friedrichshafen, Germany as war reparation. It was delivered to the United States Navy in October 1924 and after being used mainly for experimental work, particularly in the development of the American parasite fighter program, was decommissioned in 1932.
The second of four vessels to carry the name USS Los Angeles, the airship was built for the United States Navy as a replacement for the Zeppelins that had been assigned to the United States as war reparations following World War I, and had been sabotaged by their crews in 1919. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Luftschiffbau Zeppelin were not permitted to build military airships. In consequence Los Angeles, which had the Zeppelin works number LZ 126, was built as a passenger airship, although the Treaty limitation on the permissible volume was waived, it being agreed that a craft of a size equal to the largest Zeppelin constructed during World War One was permissible.
The airship's hull had 24-sided transverse ring frames for most of its length, changing to an octagonal section at the tail surfaces, and the hull had an internal keel which provided an internal walkway and also contained the accommodation for the crew when off duty. For most of the ships length the main frames were 32 ft 10 in (10 m) apart, with two secondary frames in each bay. Following the precedent set by LZ 120 Bodensee, crew and passenger accommodation was in a compartment near the front of the airship that was integrated into the hull structure. Each of the five Maybach V12 engines occupied a separate engine car, arranged as four wing cars with the fifth aft on the centerline of the ship. All drove two-bladed pusher propellers and were capable of running in reverse. Auxiliary power was provided by wind-driven dynamos.
Los Angeles was first flown on 27 August 1924, and after completing flight trials began the transatlantic delivery flight on 12 October under the command of Hugo Eckener, arriving at the US Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, New Jersey after an 81 hour flight of 4,229 nautical miles (7,832 km). The airship was commissioned into the US Navy on 25 November 1924 at Anacostia, D.C. with LCDR Maurice R. Pierce in command. On its arrival in the United States, its lifting gas was changed from hydrogen to helium, which reduced payload but improved safety. At the same time the airship was fitted with equipment to recover water from the exhaust gases for use as ballast to compensate for the loss of weight as fuel was consumed, so avoiding the necessity to vent scarce helium to maintain neutral buoyancy.
The airship went on to log a total of 4,398 hours of flight, covering a distance of 172,400 nautical miles (319,300 km). Notable long-distance flights included return flights to Panama, Costa Rica and Bermuda. It served as an observatory and experimental platform, as well as a training ship for other airships.
On 25 August 1927, while the Los Angeles was tethered at the Lakehurst high mast, a gust of wind caught her tail and lifted it into colder, denser air that was just above the airship. This caused the tail to lift higher. The crew on board tried to compensate by climbing up the keel toward the rising tail, but could not stop the ship from reaching an angle of 85 degrees, before it finally descended. Amazingly, the ship suffered only slight damage and was able to fly the next day.
In 1929 the Los Angeles was used to test the trapeze system developed by the US Navy to launch and recover fixed wing aircraft from rigid airships. The tests were a success and the two later American-built naval rigid airships were each fitted with this system. The temporary system was removed from the Los Angeles, which never carried any aircraft on operational flights. In 1930, the Los Angeles also tested the launching of a glider over Lakehurst, New Jersey.
On 25 May 1932 the Los Angeles participated in a demonstration of photophone technology. Floating over the General Electric plant in Schenectady, New York, the crew of the ship engaged in an on-air conversation with a WGY radio announcer using a beam of light.
As the terms under which the Allies permitted the United States to have the Los Angeles restricted its use to commercial and experimental purposes only, when the U.S. Navy wanted to use the airship in a fleet problem in 1931 permission had to be obtained from the Allied Control Commission. The Los Angeles took part in Fleet Problems XII (1931) and XIII (1932), although as was the case with all U.S. Navy rigid airships, demonstrated no particular benefit to the fleet.
The Los Angeles was decommissioned in 1932 as an economy measure, but was recommissioned for a period after the USS Akron crashed in April 1933. Soon returned to storage, the airship was finally struck off the Navy list in 1939 and dismantled in its hangar, thus ending the career of the Navy's longest serving airship. Unlike the ill-fated Shenandoah, Akron, and Macon, the Los Angeles' career did not meet a disastrous end.
- Length: 656 ft 2 in (200.0 m)
- Diameter: 91 ft 10 in (28.0 m)
- Height: 101 ft 8 in (31 m)
- Volume: 2,472,000 cu ft (70,000 m3)
- Empty weight: 88,846 lb (40,300 kg)
- Useful lift: 41,000 lb (19,000 kg)
- Powerplant: 5 × Maybach V12 piston engines , 400 hp (300 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 76 mph; 66 kn (122 km/h)
- Cruising speed: 67 mph; 58 kn (108 km/h)
- Range: 5,220 mi; 4,536 nmi (8,400 km) at cruising speed
An RRG Prüfling glider attached to USS Los Angeles for carriage and drop tests.
- "Kite Balloons to Airships...the Navy's Lighter-than-Air Experience" (PDF). Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
- "America's Second Rigid Airship—"ZR 3"". Flight International: 60. 31 January 1924.
- Althoff 2004, pp. 33–42.
- "Big Changes Give Giants Of The Air Far Wider Range." Popular Science, September 1930; rare photos in article.
- "Dirigible Launches Glider." Popular Mechanics, April 1930.
- Hart 1992, pp. 42–43.
- “Allies Permit the Navy to Use The Los Angeles in War Game.” The New York Times, 8 January 1931.
- Althoff, William F. Sky Ships. New York: Orion Books, 1990. ISBN 0-517-56904-3.
- Althoff, William F. USS Los Angeles: The Navy's Venerable Airship and Aviation Technology. Dulles, Virginia: Brassey's, 2004. ISBN 1-57488-620-7.
- Hart, Larry. Pictures From the Past: A Schenectady Album. Schenectady, New York: Old Dorp Books, 1992. ISBN 978-0-932035-13-4.
- Provan, John. LZ-127 "Graf Zeppelin": The story of an Airship, vol. 1 & vol. 2 (Amazon Kindle ebook). Pueblo, Colorado: Luftschiff Zeppelin Collection, 2011.
- Robinson, Douglas H., and Charles L. Keller. "Up Ship!": U.S. Navy Rigid Airships 1919-1935. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1982. ISBN 0-87021-738-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to USS Los Angeles (ZR-3).|
- Photo gallery of USS Los Angeles
- eZEP.de — The webportal for Zeppelin mail and airship memorabilia
- Zeppelin Study Group — Research group for airship memorabilia and Zeppelin mail
- USS Los Angeles (ZR-3) - Navy Lakehurst Historical Society
- Picture of the 25 August 1927 nose stand
- DANFS article on Los Angeles (ZR-3)
- Photo gallery at Naval Historical Center
- 1925 eclipse footage shot from ship
- "Queen of Dirigibles Ready for U.S." May 1924, Popular Science Monthly - excellent drawing showing size comparison between earlier dirigibles and battleships