R38-class airship

The R38 was a rigid airship, which was built for the U.S. Navy in 1921 in the UK. The American designation ZR -2 was already attached during the test drives across the UK on the hull.

Development and construction

Base of ZR -2 in America should be Lakehurst. For this purpose, the airship should be transferred after completion of the test trips across the Atlantic.

Due to delays in the construction of ZR- 1 USS Shenandoah was the first of the five R38/ZR-2 until today (2009) built U.S. rigid airships. It took almost a year before the start of construction of ZR -1.

The construction of the British R37 at Short Brothers had previously been discarded after 325,000 pounds, 93% of construction costs had been spent and only lacked the envelope and the gas cells.

In his first test drive, which was held on June 23, 1921 at the Royal Airship Works at Cardington, was R38/ZR-2 with about 213 m in length and 85,000 cubic meters ( other source 77,000 m³) lifting gas volume ( hydrogen) the world's largest built until then airship. This track should also retain until 1928.

The design was based on a German design for a lightweight haughty war airship, which was less designed for high speeds and good maneuverability, but rather for large headroom to avoid enemy aircraft. Thus, the ring spacing was 15 m, for example.

In the following weeks, three other tests to test the ship and instruction of the visiting delegation from the U.S. occupation of the future have been made.

The end

The fourth test drive began on 23 August 1921. After a night on the sea full load and Manövrierversuche were taken the next day. Here, the framework of the airship broke up in the air. In the front part of the hydrogen gas ignited; he plunged into the river Humber near the town of Hull. All crew members who had been in him, came up to Captain when. The rear part crashed on a sandbar in it survived four crew members. Other sources report of five survivors of the tail section.

Overall, the crash survived on August 24, only five of the 49 English and American crew members, including one American. 16 members of the U.S. Navy, and thus almost all experienced American rigid airship, died.

R38/ZR-2 was indeed equipped with parachutes for all crew members, who were at individual stations of the crew members. However, most users of these parachutes had no luck; they ended tragically in burning gasoline.

This disaster broke the British airship for about 10 years. He was continued only with R100 and R101. The U.S. Navy ordered in Germany in 1922 as a replacement for the lost ship the Zeppelin LZ 126, was to become the most successful rigid airship America under the designation ZR -3 " USS Los Angeles ".


  • Drive: six Sunbeam Cossack engines with a total of 1550 kW
  • Scaffolding: 17eckig with 14 gas cells
  • Payload: 46 t
  • Determined Maximum speed: 113 km / h