When we lived in the Bay Area, I wrote an article on a search and rescue exercise the the 129th Rescue Wing was holding at Moffett Field. I got to spend a good chunk of one day on base while the exercise was underway. During some of the down time between launch and recovery, we were taken in to the airship hangars. Hangar One is the famous hangar which has had its surface removed as a prelude to its eventual refurbishment.
On the other side of the field are the other two hangars and it was one of these that we got to check out. The structure of these hangars is wooden as opposed to the metal framework of Hangar One. The condition of the structure was deteriorating and, while we could go in to one hangar, I seem to recall that the other one was considered more hazardous.
The wooden framing was something to see. Pictures really don’t do anything to convey just how big these buildings are. A P-2 Neptune was in storage at the time. After this, it was moved across the field to join the P-3 Orion on display. Wherever you were on the ramp, the hangars dominated the view. As we watched the Pave Hawks and Hercs launching, the hangars were always there in the background.
I was in southern California for a day and I flew in and out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County. On the approach to the airport, I got a good view of Tustin. This is a retired military airfield and, in its earlier days, it had been an airship base. It still has two large airship hangars in the same style as those I have seen before at Moffett Field and Tillamook.
After my meetings had wrapped up and I was heading back to the airport, I took a few minutes to divert past the hangars and to grab a couple of shots of them. They are impressive structures and appear to be in great condition. I have no idea whether they are used much at this point and who looks after them but either they are well taken care of or the southern California climate doesn’t cause them too much trouble.
Tillamook in Oregon is well known as a home of cheese production. It is also home to an airfield that was once a base for naval airship operations. Two massive hangars were built to house the huge airships in the days before they went out of favor as a patrol vehicle. One of them remains and is the home of a museum amongst other things. The other hangar is long gone. However, traces of it remain.
The structure of these large hangars was predominantly wood but there were some concrete elements. Each end of the hangar had huge rolling doors and the posts to support that system were large concrete structures. Meanwhile, the arches along the length of the hangar were rooted in concrete bases. While the wood from the hangar has been taken away, the concrete sections remain. Whether they were too difficult to remove or just not worth the cost, I don’t know. What I do know is that they are still there and other things have moved in to operate within their footprint, in this case a lumber yard.
I include a picture of the remaining hangar for reference so you can see where the various structural elements exist within the finished building in case it is not immediately apparent. When we first passed by this location on a trip about ten years ago, it took me some time to work out what these strange items were.
While I was at Moffett Federal Field to cover the Soaring Angel exercise, we were shown around Hangar Three. It is used by the base units to store material as well as to stage equipment ahead of shipping. However, it is more interesting because it is one of the huge airship hangars on the airfield. I have previously posted some shots of Hangar One here. Hangar Three is on the other side of the field and one of two hangars of a different design to Hangar One. However, it is still a cool structure.
The structure is very dense. Being a wooden frame, it is very complex series of beams and joists to hold up such a large structure. It is both cool to see and hard to photograph when trying to convey the size of the thing. Added to that is that it is very dark in there. Compared to the brightness outside, there is a huge range of light from the ramp to the interior.
One other nice thing about the hangar is that it is currently the home to the P-2 Neptune for the museum across the airfield. It will move across to join the collection on display before too long. The QSRA research aircraft has already moved over and hopefully it will too. In the meantime, it is waiting in the dark. I don’t know whether any work is underway on it but it looks in pretty good shape. It will make a nice addition to the P-3 to show the history of maritime patrol aircraft at Moffett.
A visit to Moffett Field cannot be completed without reference to the huge airship hangars that they have. Hangar One is on the same side of the airfield as the museum and is right next to it. Hangars Two and Three are of a different construction and are on the other side of the field away from public access. Google is apparently the owner/tenant of the hangars now so they are out of bounds. In the museum, they have pictures of the hangars under construction. However, now you don’t have to imagine so much because Hangar One has had all of its cladding removed as part of its rehabilitation. Consequently, the structure is bare at the moment and you can see exactly how it is constructed. It looks pretty amazing although, given its size, it will always look amazing.
A little bit of sad news recently came through to me from the West Coast. Airship Ventures have ceased operations. They are a company that bought a new generation Zeppelin airship from the manufacturers in Germany and based it in the Bay Area around San Francisco. They provided tours around the Bay as well as operating further afield in the state. I got to catch up with them when they undertook a national tour that included a stop not far from Chicago.
I was writing an article for the website at Global Aviation Resource which you can see here. I also blogged about it here. There is an effort underway to rescue the business. We shall see whether they are successful or whether someone buys the assets at a discount and sets up something new. I hope it works out and wish them well.
Again you are going to receive an abbreviated post that is directing you to another location for the fuller story. In this case, it is a piece I have put together for Global Aviation Resource. The topic is the Zeppelin NT airship operated by Airship Ventures, a company based just outside San Francisco in California.
It seems that lighter than air vehicles have suddenly become a big thing for me. I blogged not long ago about a blimp that was circling my home (not that it was aware that I was there of course – I think it was doing other things). Then I saw the Zeppelin of Airship Ventures floating over the Chicago lakefront while I was watching fireworks on the 4th of July. They were at Oshkosh and got a lot of coverage while there and now have passed back through Chicagoland.
I had the chance to go out and watch the team at work recently and that is the focus of the article that can be found at this link.
Hardly an earth-shattering post this time. Often, photographing aviation themes can be a case of frustration as you try and aim to be somewhere when something is happening. This situation is a little different. I was happily sitting in my living room when I looked out of the window and saw a blimp briefly pass between two buildings in the distance. Blimps do occasionally show up in the city, usually providing aerial coverage of some sporting event or other.
I decided to grab the camera and see if it came any closer. I got my gear and waited for the blimp to come up the shoreline towards us. Sure enough, it appeared between some more buildings heading in just the right direction. Then, it turned around and headed back the way it had just come. Crap! Where was it going next? I started watching the gap I had first seen it in. Nothing for a while. I got distracted by a shot of an Aston Martin parked in the front of the Trump and looked up to see it just passing out of sight in the gap I was supposed to be watching.
Now, can I be patient and wait for it to come back again? Sure I can. I waited – and waited – and waited. Nothing. I was beginning to think it had gone when I spotted its reflection in the IBM building. It was right behind us! This guy is sneaky!
Now I had to wait again. Would he continue on that course and come out the other side of us or reverse again? This time he continued in a predictable fashion and popped out amongst the buildings north and east of us. I grabbed a few shots as he headed south again and then returned to what I was doing. Hardly great shots and probably not worth the effort (unless DirecTV decide to give me something for publicizing their own publicity machine) but I guess I am a bit of a victim of anything flying. Also, I was surprised to see just how quick that blimp could be when he wanted to get moving!