The Hindenburg was an infamous airship that caught fire on the Thursday, May 6, 1937. The LZ 129 Hindenburg was carrying 97 people. 35 people died and a number of people were injured in the disaster. This event caused the downfall of the airship as the public lost confidence in the safety of this form of travel.
What was the cause of the Hindenburg disaster?
It is still unknown what caused the Hindenburg to catch fire whilst trying to moor at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. It is also uncertain which part of the Hindenburg was the initial fuel for the fire, the fabric skin or the hydrogen gas used for buoyancy. However, most of the research shows that a hydrogen leak provided the fuel for the fire. Shortly after beginning landing procedures the airship caught fire and the gas and diesel tanks began to explode. The ship burned up completely in less than 30 seconds and became one of the most memorable aviation disasters in history.
There are a number of theories regarding the initial cause of the fire that destroyed the Hindenburg. One of the early and most widely circulated theories was sabotage. Many people including the head of the Zeppelin Airship company Hugo Eckener and the commander Max Pruss believed the cause of the fire was some sort of sabotage.
Another popular theory presented for the ignition of the fire was a static spark. It was believed that a differentiation in charge built up along the Hindenburg’s skin. When the mooring ropes touched the ground they provided an earth for the electrical charge which jumped from the skin to the metal frame causing a spark. It is believed that this ignited leaking hydrogen which caused the fire.
Two less popular theories for the Hindenburg disaster include lightning ignition and engine failure. It was proposed that as the Hindenburg vented hydrogen to maintain ballast during its descent a lighting strike ignited the hydrogen-oxygen mix and caused the fire along the skin. Similarly crew members reported seeing sparks from an engine when the Hindenburg was put into reverse. They stated that these sparks along with some leaked hydrogen ignited and caused the skin to catch fire.
Even now after many years it is unclear what the exact cause of the Hindenburg disaster was.