This Month in Buoyant Flight History – May

May 1

          1943     The Houma Naval Air Station (Louisiana) is commissioned. It would operate through 1945 providing anti-submarine patrols during World War II. Click here for a brief history of the Houma NAS LTA.

May 2

          1835     John Wise, a pioneer in balloon development, makes his first ascent in Philadelphia. Click here to read more about John Wise and his balloon.

May 6

          1937     The Hindenburg burns and crashes at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey, ending the era of passenger travel by airship. The hydrogen-filled LZ 129 “Hindenburg”, a rigid airship began its journey across the Atlantic in Frankfurt, Germany on May 3rd. Headwinds en route and then poor conditions in the Lakehurst area delayed the arrival by more than 12 hours. It finally approached to moor just after 7pm. While ground crews attempt to secure the airship, flames are spotted just forward of the vertical fin. The fire spreads very quickly, engulfing the entire airship in less than a minute. It crashes to the ground in a huge fireball. Though the exact cause is uncertain, a sudden wind change from east to southwest meant a late S-turn correction needed to be made in the final minutes of flight. This may have caused strain on the aircraft, snapping a support line and ripping open a gas cell, sparking the fire from the leaking hydrogen. 35 of the 97 people onboard die, as well as one person on the ground.

Click here to read about Herbert Morrison’s famous radio transmission of the disaster. Click here for an article about the Hindenburg from the New York Historical Society.    Click here to see a slideshow pertaining to the disaster on

May 9

          1936     The Hindenburg lands at Lakehurst, NJ after its first flight to North America. Ironically, a year later, almost to the day, the airship meets its tragic end as it bursts into flame while attempting to land.

May 10

          1784     Upon his return from Europe where he had studied pneumatics, John Foulke launched the first unmanned hot–air balloon in the United States.

May 11

          1926     An Italian-built Norge airship takes off from Spitsbergen, Norway to become the first aircraft to cross the Arctic Ocean and North Pole. A crew of Roald Amundsen of Norway, Umberto Nobile of Italy, Lincoln Ellsworth of the United States and others lands in Teller, Alaska three days later. Click here to read about Umberto Nobile and his flight over the North Pole. Click here to see a poster marking the 80th Anniversary of the flight.

May 21

          1929     The first arch of what would become the Goodyear-Zeppelin Co.’s Airdock, in Akron, Ohio, is erected. Click here to see pictures of the Airdock construction.