Hangar No. One
Hangar No. One, NAS Lakehurst (photo taken on 7/11/32)
The following text was taken, with permission, from James R. Shock's book, American Airship Bases & Facilities.
Hangar No. One at Lakehurst is based on the typical designs of World War I. It resembles many of the rigid airship hangars built in Great Britain which used counter-balanced doors in lieu of the steel supporting framework generally found in German hangar design. The construction contract for the hangar was awarded to the Lord Construction Company on 8 September 1919. The first of ten trusses were erected by the Bethlehem Steel Company on 8 May 1920. The hangar consists of three pinned, arched steel trusses supported on steel towers. The outer columns and chords support the side wall framing and siding. Shops, offices and service areas with mezzanines are located on each side along the entire length of the hangar. The steel structure was light-weight rolled sections joined by riveted gusset plates.
Siding and roofing were corrugated cement and asbestos panels in two different shades of brown and one shade of gray for camouflage purposes, which proved a checkerboard effect. The two-leaf sliding, counterbalanced doors at each end of the hangar are massive; each door leaf weighs 1,350 tons and measures 136 feet in width, 177 feet in height and seventy-six feet deep at the base. The hangar was designed to be as safe as possible, considering the use of hydrogen. The floor was spark-proof, electrical panels and lighting were explosion-proof, etc. Adjacent to the hangar were facilities for helium purification. A helium storage tank, or gasometer, was located north of Hangar No. One. Helium was piped directly into the hangar in sealed piping. Although hydrogen was not used for the Navy rigid airships, it was made available to the German Zeppelins from railroad tank cars.
Hangar No. One originally included a system of trolley tracks serving as docking rails for airship handling. These rails ran through the hangar and 1,500 feet from each end onto the landing areas. With developments in rigid airship handling, the track system was revised and the tracks through the hangar ran to a hauling-up or docking/undocking circle to the front (west) of the hangar. A system of tracks led to two mooring-out circles for trolley masts, the stern beams and riding-out cars for mechanical handling of rigid airships.
Lakehurst was the consummate rigid airship station. Hangar No. One often housed two rigid airships and three or four of the smaller non-rigid airships. When two rigid airships occupied the hangar, it became overcrowded, particularly with the relatively low and wide, but long (186 feet) stern beam for securing the lower fin. In 1931, due to this condition, the non-rigids were transferred temporarily to Cape May, New Jersey. (The Cape May hangar, although originally planned as a rigid airship hangar, was not normally used for airships.) The cramped conditions at Lakehurst prompted the erection of a hangar for the non-rigid airships, which was relocated from Norfolk. This is now knows as Hangar No. Four. At one time or another, Hangar No. One housed every active American rigid airship (Shenandoah, Los Angeles, Akron and Macon), the Graf Zeppelin and Hindenburg, several Army airships (including the semi-rigid airship, RS-1 in July 1927) and every type of non-rigid airship constructed for the Navy from 1922 to 1960. Hangar No. One housed the Navy's last rigid airship (Los Angeles), which made its last flight 26 June 1932, and was the subject of mooring tests as late as 1937. To house larger rigid airships, it was once proposed that the sliding doors be replaced with the orange-peel or clam-shell type doors of the Goodyear-Zeppelin design. This change would have provided additional length at each end of the hangar. Los Angeles was dismantled in the hangar by January 1940. After 1940, the hangar was used exclusively for non-rigid airships. Due to changes over the years, only the west doors have been used since the time of the Los Angeles, except during World War II field construction in 1942.
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