August 23 in Aviation History

The Death of Airship ZR-2


On August 22, 1921, the British airship R38, originally designed for long-range patrols during World War I, suffered a structural failure over the city of Hull, crashing into the Humber estuary. The death toll was 44 (of 49 crew members), more than died in the Hindenburg disaster.

The British A-class rigid airships were cancelled after the end of the war, but the U. S. Navy offered to purchase one of them, originally designated R38. At the time of her first flight in 1921, the R38 (renamed ZR-2 by the Navy) was the world’s largest airship. The doomed flight was the last of four test flights before the newly-christened ZR-2 would be flown to Lakehurst in the United States.

After completing high speed tests on August 23, the R38 decided to try some low altitude rudder tests, causing both ends of the airship to droop. A fire broke out, followed by a large explosion that broke windows throughout Hull. The ship crashed into the shallow Humber estuary.

The accident board concluded that no allowance had been made for aerodynamic stresses in the design, and that the various test maneuvers had weakened the hull, leading to the crash.


Freckleton Air Disaster

On August 23, 1944, the USAAF B-24 Liberator “Classy Chassis II” crashed into the Holy Trinity Church of England School in Freckleton, Lancashire, England. A total of 61 people died, including 38 children. The crash demolished three houses and the Sad Sack Snack Bar. Contributing to the accident was a severe storm, with wind velocities near 60 mph.

First Flight of the C-130


On August 23, 1954, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport plane first flew. The aircraft remains in production and in service to this day.





Gossamer Condor

On August 23, 1977, the human-powered Gossamer Condor, piloted by Bryan Allen, won the Kremer prize for taking off under human power and completing a figure-eight course. The aircraft is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.