Science Fiction Dictionary
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

 

Flying Aircraft Carrier Crash Site Surveyed

The Navy zeppelin USS Macon was lost off the coast of California in heavy winds on February 12, 1935. This enormous airship was four times the length of a modern Goodyear blimp, and carried 100 crewmembers. More remarkably, the Macon was a "flying aircraft carrier" able to launch and retrieve reconnaissance airplanes in flight.


(USS Macon airship in hangar, 1935)

On September 17th of this year, Stanford engineers joined an expedition from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to explore the wreck. Deep-diving remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) with cameras were used to take more than 14,000 pictures detailing the crash site, which is now spread over 75,000 square feet of ocean floor. Over the next few months, these images will be combined and color corrected to form a complete image of the wreckage of this unique aviation experiment.

Built by the Goodyear-Zeppelin company in the early thirties, the Macon and its sister ship the Akron were constructed with rigid hulls of aluminum alloy. The ships were kept aloft by 12 helium-filled cells inside the hull; 6.5 million cubic feet of helium were used. Each airship was 785 feet long with a special internal hangars located about two-thirds of the way behind the nose of the airship, housing five light Sparrowhawk aircraft.

The Macon and the Akron were able to launch and recover the planes using a T-shaped opening in the floor of the hangar. A welded metal "sky hook" was attached to the top of each plane; the hook attached the plane to a trapeze. The trapeze with its attached plane was lowered through the hangar floor. Pilots revved their engines, yanked a release lever, and dropped into the air.

The retrieval process was a bit trickier. Piolots had to match speed with the rigid airship, and guide the hook back onto the trapeze. The whole assembly was then lifted back into the body of the airship.

The airships used eight Maybach 560-horsepower gasoline reversible engines to drive outboard propellers; speeds of up to eighty miles per hour were possible.

The concept of a "flying aircraft carrier" still fascinates us. In the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a 2004 movie directed by Kerry Conran and starring Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, the intrepid Sky Captain runs out of fuel in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, a huge flying platform commanded by his friend Franky (played by Angelina Jolie) was in the area.


(Movie-style flying aircraft carrier with plane in foreground)

This improbably large craft had hundreds of crewmembers with dozens of aircraft; it was kept aloft by large downward-pointing rotors. This excellent film was shot almost entirely against a blue background; computer-generated graphics make enormous flying platforms possible in the movies, if not in real life.


(Movie-style flying aircraft carrier seen from below)

The photographic expedition by Stanford and MBARI will provide a fitting tribute and ending to the real-life airship Macon, whose great size and rumbling engines were a familiar part of life to students at Stanford in the early 'thirties.

Update 03-Jul-2022: Ed Earl Repp writing in Air Wonder Stories in 1929 describes an enormous air-freighter cargo plane in his short story The Invisible Raiders. End update.

Read more about the Stanford/MBARI expedition and the USS Macon

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/19/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Warfare ")

'Warrior Suit' Combat Exoskeleton Project Still Alive
'Suited up, you look like a big steel gorilla.'

Sea Drones Attack Russian Fleet
'...autofreighters, and other self-piloting craft.' - Ray Naylor, 2022.

Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.' - Neal Stephenson, 1995.

Russia Working On Military Exoskeletons
'...you look like a big steel gorilla...' - Robert Heinlein, 1959.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

Vast Apartment Living Will Get Even More Vast
'What is your population', I asked. 'About eighty millions.'

NASA Wants Self-Driving Or Remote-Controlled Vehicles For Lunar Astronauts
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold...'

Elon Musk Says Robotaxis Will Be Ready This August, 2024
'The car had no steering wheel, and no one drove!'

Moonwalkers AI-Controlled Electric Shoes
Now that's power walking that Hugo Gernsback would have approved.

Steve Jobs: 'Capture The Next Aristotle - With AI'
'It was disturbing to think of the Flatline as a construct...'

No Tips! Robotic Food Delivery In Phoenix
'...he rewired the delivery robot so that it would serve him midnight snacks.'

Electric Catamaran 'Explorer Eco 40m' Has 'Solar Skin'
'On went the electric-yacht faster and still faster.'

Orbital Mechanics, The Liftoff, The Turnover, The Retrograde Burn
'...the huge vessel had spun, with a sickening lurch, through a complete half-circle, the instant the power was reversed.'

Harvest Power From Tears And Blinking With Smart Contact Lens
'...he realized that it was not quite a clear lens. Speckles of colored brightness swirled and gathered in it.'

Europa Clipper Plate Carries A Special Message
'...a universal cryptogram yet it is one which can be interpreted by any intelligent creature on any planet in the Solar System!'

Micro-Robots Are Smallest, Fully Functional
'With a whir, the Scarab shot from the concealing shadows of the corner where it had hidden itself.'

AI Enhances Images Your Brain Sees
'I could have sworn the psychomat showed pictures almost as sharp and detailed as reality itself'

Illustrating Classic Heinlein With AI
'Stasis, cold sleep, hibernation, hypothermia, reduced metabolism, call it what you will - the logistics-medicine research teams had found a way to stack people like cordwood and use them when needed.'

Deflector Plasma Screen For Drones ala Star Wars
'If the enemy persists in attacking or even intensifies their power, the density of the plasma in space will suddenly increase, causing it to reflect most of the incoming energy like a mirror.'

DIY Robotic Hand Made After Loss Of Fingers
'I made them... with the fine work of the watchmaker...'

Cheap Drunk Driver Detection From UofM
"Look, I can drive... Start, darn it!"

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.