C-5 (blimp)

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C-5 in 1919.jpg
US Navy Blimp C-5, seen with ground crew in 1919
Role patrol airship
Manufacturer Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation, Goodrich
First flight 1918
Status Lost
Primary user United States Navy

C-5 was a hydrogen inflated C class blimp operated by the U.S. Navy in 1918 and 1919. It was one of ten C class non-rigid airships built by Goodyear and Goodrich primarily for training and patrol duty for the navy during World War I.


The C-5's engines were built by Hispano-Suiza, and its control car was built by Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. In early May 1919, the C-5 made a pioneering flight from its home base at Cape May, New Jersey to Montauk Point, New York and St. John's, Newfoundland, becoming the first airship to reach that city and in the process sending the first radio voice transmission from Newfoundland. The C-5's goal was to fly across the Atlantic, paralleling the route used by the U.S. seaplane NC-4. Previous attempts to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon were unsuccessful. The most famous of these attempts was that of the dirigible America in October 1910.

On 14 May 1919, the C-5 departed Montauk Point in clear weather. It made good time, but encountered heavy fog and thunderstorms near Saint Pierre Island, Canada and became lost for several hours. It eventually regained its way, but the extended trip caused the crew to exhaust its food supply and wind and rain continuously buffeted the blimp. The C-5 again became lost, this time over Newfoundland itself, when its radio navigation equipment malfunctioned. The C-5's crew used its voice radio to contact the U.S. Navy cruiser Chicago, which was in St. John's, and the radio signal was used to guide the C-5 to the tracks of the Colonial Railroad, which it followed to St. John's and a safe landing at 11 a.m. on 15 May. The commander of the blimp, Lieutenant Commander Coll, said it was the roughest trip he had ever experienced.

Most of the crew left to eat lunch and sleep, while the few remaining men began to service the blimp's engines. In the meantime, a storm rolled in and additional cables were tied over the blimp in order to secure it and crewmen from the Chicago were brought in to help. The wind intensified from 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) to 40 miles per hour (64 km/h) with higher gusts, and the blimp began to break free from its additional cables. The engines couldn't be restarted because they were under maintenance, so Lieutenant Charles Little attempted to pull the emergency cord to open the gasbag and deflate it. The cord broke, and the C-5 began to lift off, tearing a few remaining cables that injured two crewmen as they sprang loose. Little jumped from the rising blimp, injuring his ankle, and the C-5 was blown eastward, over the Atlantic Ocean.

The destroyer USS Edwards was dispatched to retrieve the blimp, which continued to drift. Later news reports that the C-5 crashed into the Atlantic and was found by a passing British ship were false.There were also reports that the C-5 may have been sighted over Ireland, but these were never substantiated. The C-5 was never seen again.

On the same day the C-5 broke loose from its moorings, the British government announced plans to send the airship R-34 on a transatlantic flight to Cape May, the C-5's home base. That airship successfully crossed the Atlantic, becoming the first aircraft to navigate that body of water from east to west nonstop.

Specifications (typical C class blimp)[edit]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Four
  • Length: 196 ft 0 in (59.76 m)
  • Diameter: 42 ft 0 in (12.80 m)
  • Height: 54 ft 0 in (16.46 m)
  • Volume: 181,000 ft3 (5,125 m3)
  • Useful lift: 4,050 lb (1,837 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Hispano-Suiza, 150 hp (112 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 60 mph (97 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 40 mph (64 km/h)
  • Range: 1,440 miles (2,320 km)
  • Endurance: 31 hours  30 min
  • Service ceiling: 8,600 ft (2,620 m)


  • 1 × .303 Lewis gun
  • 4 × 270 lb (122 kg) bombs


  • "Blimp Loosed By Gale; The Navy Dirigible C-5, Blown to Sea from Newfoundland and Picked Up by British Ship." The New York Times. 16 May 1919. pp. 1
  • "Our Runaway Airship Captured by British Ship Eighty-five Miles at Sea, East of St. John's, N.F.", The New York Times. 16 May 1919. pp. 1
  • Shock, James R. US Navy Airships. Edgewater, Florida: Atlantic Press, 2001. pp. 22–27. ISBN 978-0-9639743-8-9.