Macon (ZRS - 5) 1933 - 1935
The Macon was the last
rigid airship built in the United States
USS Macon, sister
of the 6,500,000 cubic foot rigid airship Akron (ZRS-4), was built
at Akron, Ohio. She first flew in April 1933, only a few weeks after
Akron's tragic loss. Following a series of test flights, one of which
took her from Ohio to Wisconsin and back, she was commissioned in June.
Macon was based at Lakehurst, New Jersey, during mid-1933 and made
several development and training flights during this time. In October she
flew by way of her name city of Macon, Georgia, and Texas to Moffett
Field, California, where a new airship hangar awaited her.
During the rest of 1933
Macon and her embarked airplanes began what would be an extensive
program of participation in exercises off the Pacific Coast, testing her
abilities for fleet scouting and other missions. In April 1934 she flew
east, again via Texas, to Opa-locka, Florida. Weather damage received in
this trip was repaired in time for her to participate in Fleet Problem XV
in the Caribbean during May, after which she returned to Moffett Field.
Macon made a long-distance flight over the Pacific Ocean in mid-July
to intercept the cruiser Houston (CA-30), which was carrying
President Franklin D. Roosevelt from Panama to Hawaii. During this mission
her F9C "Sparrowhawk" aircraft were operated with their wheeled landing
gear removed, a performance-enhancing practice that was thereafter normal
when these small fighting planes were embarked on the airship.
Further fleet exercises
followed over the remaining months of 1934 and the first part of 1935.
These demonstrated Macon's ability, in association with her
airplanes, to conduct strategic searching over the vast distances to be
expected in a Pacific war. However, they also showed her vulnerability,
especially in the presence of opposing airplanes, when she was used for
tactical scouting close to the fleet. During the early evening of 12
February 1935, while returning to Moffett Field from an operation over the
ocean, USS Macon encountered a storm off Point Sur, California. A
violent gust tore off her upper fin, causing damage that soon brought her
down into the sea. Though all but two of her crew were rescued, the
dirigible sank in deep water, effectively ending the Navy's controversial,
and trouble-plagued, program of rigid airship operations.