They’re almost essential to setting the mood in a ’30s pulp game…airships. Zeppelins. Dirigibles. From a boy, I’ve loved these damned things, from the first time I saw the Goodyear blimp. So I thought it might be time to write a few of the old girls up for Hollow Earth Expedition.

The first conceit I changed — the idea that these vessels were lightweights against attack. Outside of a hit by another vehicle, the sheer size of the airship means they can take a lot of bullets before they start to have an issue. This was why the incendiary bullet was developed, to set off the “dirty” hydrogen (hydrogen that had been adulterated with air.)

We’re just going to do the rigid airships that were active in the 1930s:

U.S.S. LOS ANGELES (ZR-3)

Launched in 1924 from Freidrichshaven, Germany as LZ-126, Los Angeles was part of the war reparations plan. The airship is the sister ship to Graf Zeppelin, and has a flawless service record with the navy. Built as a passenger vessel, Los Angeles has been used for scouting, zeppelin construction studies, and for scientific missions. She ended her active service life in 1932, but remained commissioned and maintained at Lakehurst, New Jersey until 1938, when she was broken up for scrap.

Displacing 2.7 million cu.ft., ZR-3 is 658’ in length, with a bean of 90’ and draught of 104’. She is propelled by five 400hp Maybach V-12 engines and is capable of 75mph for 6,640 miles. She has a pressure height (ceiling) of about 8,000’.

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USS Los Angeles: Size: 16   Def: 12   Str: 18   Spd: 75   Ceil: 8,000′   Rng: 6000 mi   Han: -2   Crew: 36   Pass: up to 20

U.S.S. AKRON (ZR-4) & U.S.S. MACON (ZR-5)

Commissioned in 1931, Akron is the first rigid airship designed and constructed by the Goodyear Company of Akron, Ohio. Currently, the largest flying object ever constructed, the airship is 785’ long, with a beam of 133; and draught of 145’. She is propelled by eight 560hp Maybach V-12 engines that are connected to specialized condensers that use the exhaust to create water ballast to replace the fuel used in operation. She is capable of 80mph and a range of 6000-6500 miles, carries 8 M2A1 .30 machineguns and up to 5 Curtis F9C Sparrowhawk fighter planes in her launch bay.

From the get-go, Akron was something of an unlucky ship, experiencing several incidents where she was suffered minor damage due to mishandling. In 1933, she was on a patrol off the New Jersey coast when she ran into a storm. Unlike German airship handlers, who scrupulously avoided bad weather, naval airshipmen had a habit of running their craft through dangerous weather systems. In this case, the sudden drop in barometric pressure the altimeter in the control gondola left the crew to think Akron was higher than she actually was. Worse, with a high degree of up-angle, the tail of the craft was dangerously low (she was almost 800′ long and typical cruising altitude was between 1500-2000′.) The tail hit waves, and the sudden increase in weight from flooding dragged the ship down.

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Her sister, Macon, had launched about the same period of time. The ship operated for two years without issue until her flight to California in 1934, when she was required to fly over her pressure height to clear the mountains of New Mexico. This did damage to her gas bags and engines, as she was running “heavy” and had to use her speed to aid in lift. Before the craft was finished repairs, she was used in a naval operation off the Pacific coast and was caught in a storm that tore a tail fin loose, causing her to rupture a few gas cells and crashing her into the ocean.

Akron-class airship: Size: 16   Def: 12   Strc: 12   Spd: 80   Ceil: 6,000′   Rng: 6500 mi   Han: -2   Crew: 60

CURTISS F9C SPARROWHAWK

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Both Akron and Macon were designed to carry up to five Curtis F9C Sparrowhawk “parasite fighters” — the naval designation for the lightweight, finicky biplanes that the vessels used to increase their scouting range. The F9C could launch and return by connecting to a trapeze system that they lock onto with their top hook. Only seven or eight of these were built.

F9C Sparrowhawk:   Size: 2   Def: 6   Strc: 6   Spd: 175   Ceil: 19,800   Rng: 290 mi   Han: +2   Crew: 1   Armaments: 2 linked Browning .30 machine guns — Dam: 4L (6L linked)   Rng: 250′   Cap: 250 (b)   Spd: A

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