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USS Macon (ZRS-5)


Akron-class Rigid Airship / Scout / Aircraft Carrier


United States | 1933



"USS Macon ZRS-5 was commissioned in June of 1933 and managed a short service which ended in early 1935 by way of a crash following a storm."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/05/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
USS Macon (ZRS-5) served the United States Navy as a scouting platform and experimental fighter mothership during its short-lived air-going career in the 1930s. It was designed as a rigid airship and her development coincided with the American interest in "parasite fighters". Parasite fighters were to be housed in hangars aboard the airship and released as needed and made recoverable through an ingenious "trapeze" method.

USS Macon began construction in May of 1931 by Goodyear-Zeppelin Company of Springfield Township, Ohio. The airship was launched on March 11th, 1933 and formally commissioned (as naval warships are) on June 23rd of that year. Her development was aided by German engineering support that included Karl Arnstein, a well-experienced designer of airships during the period.

Macon belonged to the Akron-class group which consisted of just one other aircraft - USS Akron (ZRS-4). Displacement was 7,401,260 cubic feet while dimensions included an overall length of 785 feet a beam of 133 feet and a draught of 146.4 feet. Propulsion was from 8 x (German) Maybach VL-2 12-cylinder water-cooled inline piston engines developing 560 horsepower each. These engines drove three-bladed, variable-pitch metal propeller units. The propellers were given a tilting feature that allowed them to vector their power downwards or in reverse. Maximum speed was 86 miles per hour while cruising was restricted to around 63 miles per hour. The airship's range was out to 6,840 miles.

Internally Macon carried a crew of sixty personnel. There were also 8 x 0.30 caliber medium machine guns fitted for local defense. A single trapeze recovery installation was used to launch one of the five Curtiss F9C "Sparrowhawk" biplane fighters (detailed elsewhere on this site). The general make up of the ship involved a dozen helium-filled cells fabricated from gelatin-latex and the solid understructure of the airship was of duraluminum.

Once in the air, the Akron-class airships became the largest such aircraft constructed on American soil. In April of 1933, Macon's sister, USS Akron, crashed and was lost (with only three souls surviving). Macon began her own career in June of that year and began by undertaking training sorties. It then joined USN warships for fleet exercises where her contributions were limited due to a general misunderstanding of how to use such an air vehicle in conjunction with sea-going vessels. The airship then successfully launched and retrieve its first aircraft during July of 1933. It relocated from Lakehurst, New Jersey to Santa Clara County in California before the end of the year.

In 1934, USS Macon attempted another continental journey but was damaged before arriving at its destination. Her end came during a storm encountered on February 12th, 1935 as she crashed off the coast of California (near Monterey Bay, two crew died in the event). The loss of both Akron and Macon steered the USN to invest more in non-rigid airships for the World War 2 period.

The vessel managed 50 flights before being written off (February 26th, 1935). The accident site was explored in February of 1991 and again in 2006. In January of 2010, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places. At least four Sparrowhawk fighters have been identified with the wreckage.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the USS Macon (ZRS-5) Akron-class Rigid Airship / Scout / Aircraft Carrier.
8 x Maybach VL-2 12-cylinder water-cooled inline piston engines developing 560 horsepower each driving three-bladed, variable pitch metal propeller units.
Propulsion
87 mph
140 kph | 76 kts
Max Speed
6,835 miles
11,000 km | 5,940 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the USS Macon (ZRS-5) Akron-class Rigid Airship / Scout / Aircraft Carrier.
60
(MANNED)
Crew
785.1 ft
239.30 m
O/A Length
132.9 ft
(40.50 m)
O/A Width
146.0 ft
(44.50 m)
O/A Height
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the USS Macon (ZRS-5) Akron-class Rigid Airship / Scout / Aircraft Carrier .
FIXED, STANDARD:
8 x 0.30 caliber medium machine guns in defensive positions.

ALSO:
Up to five biplane aircraft carrier.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the USS Macon (ZRS-5) family line.
USS Macon (ZRS-5) - Base Designation
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the USS Macon (ZRS-5). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Goodyear-Zeppelin Company - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 100mph
Lo: 50mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (87mph).

Graph Average of 75 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Production Comparison
1
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
1 / 1
Image of the USS Macon (ZRS-5)
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
RECONNAISSANCE
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The USS Macon (ZRS-5) Akron-class Rigid Airship / Scout / Aircraft Carrier appears in the following collections:
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