The Macon Disaster
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Touchstone
N 36° 13.857 W 121° 54.290
10S E 598418 N 4010120
Quick Description: Riddle me this: how can an airplane crash into the ocean without a pilot, or for that matter, without even starting its engine. Read the description below on the demise of the USS Macon off of Point Sur, California and see how.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 9/15/2005 10:30:17 PM
Waymark Code: WM1GY
Published By: Groundspeak Charter Member mtn-man
Views: 292

Long Description:


On February 12, 1935 the USS Macon crashed into the Pacific Ocean on its way North, just off the coast at Point Sur, California.  On board were 83 men and six Sparrowhawk Airplanes.  At 785 feet long, the Macon was the largest dirigible still flying, and the second largest to be built in history (the USS Akron crashed two years earlier and was slightly larger).  The crash of the Macon brought an end to the romantic era of dirigibles.

The Macon was built in Akron, Ohio, but it's ultimate home base was Moffett Field.  The massive hangars that once housed the Macon are still in use today and are quite a site to behold as you drive by on the freeway.  I can only imagine what a spectacular sight it must have been when the enormous Macon was coming and going from Moffett.

The Macon was the most advanced dirigible design yet for any airship made.  The framework was a stronger, improved design, which consisted of a hollow steel hull.  She used non-flammable helium in 12 huge gelatin latex cells, and she could reach speeds of up to 87 miles per hour.


As a fighting fortress, she was equipped with six Sparrowhawk Airplanes, which were housed in her belly when not in use.  To launch the planes, they would be slowly lowered on a trapeze, start their engines, and unhook themselves to drop into the air in mid-flight.  The reverse maneuver, landing the airplanes back onto the trapeze, has been described as a "wild white-knuckled ordeal".

The story of the discovery of the crash site and the expedition that went to recover one of the historic Sparrowhawks (there is only one known in existence) is a remarkable story to read.  Two very well written articles can be found at The Monterey County Weekly and The Monterey County Herald (click on the "more" link).

To log this Waymark would be a little difficult (hmmm...five miles out at sea, and 1500 feet deep).  The best way to get to see the area of the crash, and hear the story is to take one of the guided tours at the Point Sur Lighthouse State Historic Park.  Admission is nominal, and the views from the Point are breathtaking.  There is also an excellent exhibit on the Macon disaster at the Maritime Museum of Monterey located just off of Portola Plaza by the Old Fisherman's Wharf.


Date of Crash: 09/15/2005

Aircraft Model: Curtiss F9C-2 "Sparrowhawk" fighters

Military or Civilian: Military

Tail Number: six aircraft in all

Cause of Crash:
Damaged tail section of the Macon ripped off in high winds, ultimately sending all six aircraft into the ocean.

Web Address for Related Web Sites: Not listed

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