In 1931, during the height of airships, the construction of the LZ 129, later named Hindenburg, started. Almost 245m long, 41m of width and a 200 000m3 of volume, it was not only bigger, but also more luxurious than any other Zeppelin built at the time. For five years, nothing was spared to make it the best airship. After it was finished, in March 1936, the Nazi government made it fly through the German skies, from one city to another, so that everyone could see the masterpiece of national technology and be proud of it. Flyers were even handed out and patriotic music blasted through speakers.
However, the main function of the Hindenburg was passenger transportation and its intallations and equipments were ready to transform a mere trip into an unforgetable experience. While the interior of most aircrafts consisted of gas cells, the lower part of the Hindenburg was occupied with a generous two-storey deck. In its exterior, next to the bow, a small ship was located, with a control bridge.
The upper deck had a promenade in each side of the balloon with resting areas and wide windows that allowed passengers to take in the view during the trip. Next to these halls, the common areas and the dining room were located. On its interior, with access through a narrow central hall, were the cabins. At first there were 25 of them with a capacity for 50 people, a number which was then raised to 72. The rooms had, for obvious reasons, a small area, 2m by 1,5m, separated by insulating panels. They each had two bunk-beds, a closet, a sink, a small table and a stool.
On the lower deck, there were toilets, showers and other sanitary accomodations, along with the lodgings for the crew and the kitchen. That's also where a smoking lounge was placed, which, at first glance, seems paradoxal in a balloon that was entirely filled with such a flamable gas as hydrogen! But this was yet another one of the Hindenburg innovations. The smoking lounge was a closed compartment with a pressurized door, so that no hydrogen leaked in it. In order to light up cigerettes, an electric lighter, exclusive of the room, was used.
The entire structure of the Hindenburg was made of aluminium, due to its lightness and rigidity. The German architect and designer Fritz August Breuhaus, with a vast experience in drawing railway carriages and passenger ships, was responsible for the creation of the equipments and the furniture, also in the same material. The elegance and practicality of his designs were as good as what the best modernist designers were doing at the time. The piano on board was a true gem, built entirely out of aluminium and revetted with leather, weighing only 170kg.
The Hindenburg disappeared in flames, when it reached the Lakehurst, on May 1937, after an overseas trip. Many explanations were advanced for the disaster, none of which confirmed. This tragic event marked the end of the aircraft era, replaced by uncomfortable and noisy airplanes. Travelling became a need, not a pleasure.
The pictures above are of replicas of the deck of the famous aircraft, based on pictures of the time for the movie Hindenburg (1975), directed by Robert Wise.
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