The Hindenburg was a huge gamble in a long line of gambles for theZeppelin Company. She still holds the record as the largest aircraftever to fly but, as majestic and awe-inspiring as she was, theHindenburg was meant to be only the first of a fleet. Historydictated that she was to be the first of only two.
The Hindenburg was a marvel of zeppelin design. Her sheer size wastruly an engineering masterpiece. For years builders of dirigibles,including the Zeppelin Company, had simply stretched the hulls oftheir airships to accommodate more lifting gas. The British builtR101 was actually cut in half and had a whole extra section added toaccommodate an additional gas bag to increase its poor lift and thefamous Graf Zeppelin was in fact, little more than a stretchedversion of the LZ126, the Los Angeles. The Zeppelin Company decidedthat with this new zeppelin, they would increase gas volume by notonly making her the longest they could, but also by radicallyincreasing her girth. Where the Graf Zeppelin was an impressive 100feet in diameter, the Hindenburg would measured in at 135 feet and 1inch. Even though an increase of a little over 35 feet doesn't soundlike so much, remember that these monstrous ships needed hangers toprotect them from the elements and when the Hindenburg was beingbuilt in her new construction shed, she was wedged in as tight aspossible! With her massive diameter and her impressive length, theHindenburg would carry a gas volume of 7,062,000 cubic feet. Thisvolume, when filled with hydrogen, would produce an astounding 242.2tons of gross lift. The useful lift (the lift left after you subtractthe weight of the structure from the gross lift) was still 112.1tons. An astounding weight even by today's standards but mind-blowingin the 1930's. At this point in world aviation, airplanes could flyonly short distances with constant refueling and as little weight aspossible.
Although the Hindenburg is most famous for her fiery death, shewas not initially meant to be filled with hydrogen at all. Dr. HugoEckner, then still the chairman of Zeppelin, had decided that itwould be the wisest course to inflate his new ship with thenonflammable gas helium. The flaw in this plan started to unravel theidea at once. In order to keep the Zeppelin Company afloat during thehard times of the depression, large sums of money had been acceptedby the now powerful National Socialist Party, better known as theNazis. The majestic airships Hindenburg and Graf Zeppelin wereemblazoned with the swastika on their vertical fins and had alreadybeen flown on many propaganda flights over Germany dr