THE NAN-SHIP: A true story|
Note: The Nan-ship was a 342-foot long airship... compare that to the ''K'' or modern airships.
We were flying out of Weeksville, North Carolina, on temporary duty from Lakehurst for about a week. We were operating with a task force of surface ships out of Norfolk, Viginia on operations off the coast. It was a very good week and we were really doing outstanding in our hunter/killer operations with the fleet. There were no equipment problems on the airship except we somehow tore what looked like a 4 to 6 inch rip at a seam over the starboard prop. Probably the prop threw a rock up on take off or landing. The hole was too high to reach with any of the equipment at Weeksville so our riggers and the pilots did some calulations to estimate how serious it was. They figured we could stay the remaining two days of the exercises before going back to Lakehurst for repairs. There was a lot of politics involved! This was a very important mission because we were proving to the surface fleet how great an antisubmarine weapon we were. So we continued to fly with the hole seeping helium.
On the morning we were leaving Weeksville to return to Lakehurst, a cold front moved into the area. Of course the helium contracted more than they planned. The ballonets were filled to near capacity trying to keep the pressure up. However, we had lost too much helium through the rip and could only hold it at the minimum pressure. Lower pressure also reduced the helium loss.
The weather was closing in fast so we had to make it home ASAP. We were going to try to make it home with minimum pressure and maximum engine power to the two 18 foot tri-bladed props and fly it as a heavier-than-air ship! That was the ''joke'' going around, anyway.
We started at the absolute edge of the mat, and with nose into the wind, the pilot and mechanic gave it maximum everything available, including a lot of navy words . The wheel struts were compressed and the tires were squashed as we lumbered across the mat with not much happening in the way of ''flying.'' We crossed the mat and went out across the swamp that was outside the base area. The nose was up, the engines were screaming and it appeared that we were taking a ride right out into the the swamp! We didn't rise much but the ground dropped away from the tires and the struts dropped down as we left the base real estate and we continued out over the swamp - not dropping and not climbing. After a bit we began climbing and headed back to Lakehurst flying more like a flat skipped rock than a lighter-than-air ship.
When we landed at Lakehurst we were so heavy that we litterly ''dropped in'' - and blew a tire. The ship was drooping at the bow and stern, and the airship was a really sad sight. But it got us home - again.
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