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Hindenburg mystery solved after 76 years ?


Posted on Tuesday, 5 March, 2013 | Comment icon 26 comments | News tip by: Still Waters


Image credit: US Navy

 
Scientists believe they have explained what caused the Hindenburg to explode back in May 1937.

The Concorde of its day, the Hindenburg was a technological marvel that was capable of transporting passengers across the Atlantic in half the time of a sea-based vessel. Disaster struck in 1937 however when the airship burst in to flames as it came in to land at Lakehurst, New Jersey. For years experts have pondered over what exactly caused it to explode, but now a team of engineers think they may have the answer.

Using a small scale model of the airship, the team led by aeronautical engineer Jem Stansfield was able to piece together the series of events that conspired to destroy the Hindenburg. It turns out that the hull became charged with static during an electrical storm while at the same time a broken wire or faulty valve leaked hydrogen in to the ventilation shafts. "I think the most likely mechanism for providing the spark is electrostatic," said Stansfield. "That starts at the top, then the flames from our experiments would've probably tracked down to the centre. With an explosive mixture of gas, that gave the whoomph when it got to the bottom."

"The dream was a fleet of hydrogen-filled airships criss-crossing the globe, silvered hulls shining in the sunlight."

  View: Full article |  Source: Independent

  Discuss: View comments (26)

   


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #17 Posted by Chooky88 on 5 March, 2013, 22:32
Bring back air ships. Helium of course. It might be expensive but surely they only need to be filled once with a small reserve for emergencies, and jets instead of props.
Comment icon #18 Posted by GirlfromOz on 6 March, 2013, 9:21
A documentary a few years ago was the supposed explanation.It was stated that the chemicals used in that day on the outer shell,were meant to be fire retardants.But the discovery from the research crew led to the discovery that the very same supposed retardants,caused the fuelling of the fire that brought the Hindenburg down.The static might have been another factor in the ignition,but the requirement of the continual combustion was from the outer treatment of the materials & the volatile gases that had the combined effects that contributed sadly to the disaster. .
Comment icon #19 Posted by skookum on 6 March, 2013, 9:42
Hydrogen is extremely flammable, but so is aviation fuel. Lets remember the Hindenburg was a product of 1920/1930's engineering. Today rigid airships would be built from composites which would make them far lighter and require less Hydrogen to lift, you also eliminate static. Super strength, lightweight tanks made out of maybe titanium or something could be used for the hydrogen. I bet a well designed rigid airship would be no more dangerous today than a Boeing 747 carrying many tonnes of aviation fuel.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Einsteinium on 6 March, 2013, 15:56
This is incorrect. No sane company would ever consider using hydrogen as the lifting gas ever since the 1930's, even with composite materials the risk is too great. Hydrogen is just too reactive. Here is a site with more information: . The bad thing about helium is that it has about 88% of the lifting power of hydrogen, and is WAY more expensive, and becoming rarer and rarer and more expensive with each passing year.
Comment icon #21 Posted by skookum on 20 March, 2013, 13:16
In an ideal world of infinite resources I would totally agree. However the world is far from ideal with dwindling resources. We may be forced to explore hydrogen alternatives to avoid returning to the dark ages when oil gradually runs out. Many car manufacturers already are developing hydrogen cell cars.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Einsteinium on 20 March, 2013, 19:39
I agree. Hydrogen is great for use as a FUEL, but as a lifting agent for airships-not so much. Hydrogen is simply too reactive, too explosive, and too hard to totally contain without any leaks in such a large volume. Airships are not necessary for transportation or otherwise in this age of airplanes, jets, etc. Hydrogen might find its way into a jet fuel or airplane fuel of some kind. But it is extremely unlikely to ever be used again as a lifting gas for airships. You are comparing apples to potatoes here.
Comment icon #23 Posted by skookum on 21 March, 2013, 13:43
Look at it this way then. We call it a lethal gas which is too explosive to work with. The Hindenburg carried 36 passengers and 61 crew. We all agree it crashed during landing procedure. 13 passengers died and 22 crew, which means more than 50% survived this. How many usually die in an airline crash? Complete the opposite I think we will find, in fact a major airline crash classed as a disaster like the Hindenburg rarely sees any survivors. Yet we deem airships far more dangerous.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Einsteinium on 21 March, 2013, 18:00
Okay I will give you that. However, there have never been NEARLY the number of airships flying around as we have planes now. The fact that more than 50% survived the Hindenburg does not mean this would be the normal case. Consider the fact that the disaster luckily happened during landing procedure when it was close to the ground. If it had been in flight it would have been much higher up, and the death toll would have been vastly higher than it was. Helium airships are extremely safe, but hydrogen-no. Just No. Just NO. A jetliner is much safer and has been proven to be much safer than any ... [More]
Comment icon #25 Posted by Kowalski on 21 March, 2013, 19:12
I recently watched the Encore mini series, "Hindenburg: The Last Flight". I thought it was okay, not that great. But, I did enjoy seeing how the recreated the inside of the airship, and all the rooms, and everything. It looks like it was a very classy way to fly!
Comment icon #26 Posted by Zaphod222 on 2 April, 2013, 2:06
What friggin mystery? That flying a gigantic cylinder filled with hydrogen through a thunderstorm is not a bright idea is hardly rocket science. "Mystery"???


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