By Tommy H. Thomason

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Other Aircraft Carrier

The Akron and Macon were huge dirigibles flown by the Navy in the early 1930s to evaluate their utility for very-long-range reconnaissance over the ocean. Each incorporated a hangar and operated a small contingent of tiny Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk fighters, primarily to increase the scouting capability but also for self-defense. The fighters were launched and recovered from a trapeze that lowered from the hangar bay. The capability was evaluated in fleet exercises with mixed reviews. Unfortunately, the airships proved vulnerable to stormy weather conditions and both crashed, the Akron in the Atlantic off Barnegat Inlet, New Jersey in 1933 and the Macon off Point Sur, California into Monterey Bay in 1935. Although the Navy continued to operate lighter-than-air aircraft through the early 1960s, none were this large, much less capable of carrying airplanes.