Scott Air Force Base News

This month in Scott AFB history: AC-1 Airship arrives at Scott Field

Pictured is the airship AC-1 at Scott Field circa 1923.
Pictured is the airship AC-1 at Scott Field circa 1923.

On May 3, 1923, Scott Field’s latest non-rigid airship, the AC-1 (AKA the “Goodyear Military Airship” or “Type MA”) arrived at 8:40 a.m. after an 800-mile non-stop flight from its previous base at Langley Field, Virginia—today’s Langley AFB.

The uneventful flight lasted 17 hours, 24 minutes. The delivery crew consisted of Capt. George W. McIntyre, Lt. William C. Farnum, Lt. Angier H. Foster, Lt. Robert. S. Heald, Sgt. Bratton, and Sgt. Jercosay. The AC-1 joined the Scott Field growing airship fleet, which consisted of a British-built Submarine Scout Twin engine, A-4, OA-1 “Pony Blimp,” D-2, D-4, A-5, and TC-1.

The AC-1 was built by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, and was originally based at Langley Field, arriving there June 3, 1922, after its delivery to the Army on Jan. 19, 1922 at a cost of $147,000.

The airship was very advanced for the early 1920s, featuring a seemingly flush-mounted enclosed control car, 29.9 feet long, 5.5 feet wide, and 7.5 feet high, and weighing 1,005 pounds, featuring sleeping compartments and a kitchenette in an era when other airships had open gondolas.

At full speed, the AC-1 had 14 hours of flight endurance and a range of 840 miles. At cruising speed, AC-1 had 20 hours of endurance and a range of 1,050 miles. Total useful lift when filled with hydrogen gas was 12,172 pounds with useful lift of 4,521 pounds.

In reality, the gondola was suspended slightly below the envelope by steel cables and a canvas skirt enclosed the area between the envelope and the top of the gondola. As such, AC-1 was the first airship based at Scott to feature a flush-mounted gondola. The helium-filled envelope was 169 feet long, 48 feet in diameter, and 56 feet high, 50 feet wide, with a volume of 180,000 cubic feet.

The AC-1 usually carried seven crewmembers and was powered by two Aeromarine U6D engines of 130 horsepower each, driving one propeller apiece, giving the AC-1 a full speed of 60 MPH and a cruising speed of 50 MPH, faster than many steam-powered express trains of the day.

The two engines were mounted inside the gondola for streamlining, with slender outriggers supporting the shaft-drive wooden propellers.

At full speed, the AC-1 had 14 hours of flight endurance and a range of 840 miles. At cruising speed, AC-1 had 20 hours of endurance and a range of 1,050 miles. Total useful lift when filled with hydrogen gas was 12,172 pounds with useful lift of 4,521 pounds. When filled with helium, as it usually was while based at Scott Field, the lift was approximately 93 percent of that of hydrogen gas.

The major criticism of the AC-1 was its poor longitudinal stability when in the air in windy weather, due to its stubby and wide football-shaped envelope. In addition, when the U.S. Army airship switched from flammable hydrogen lifting gas to safer helium lifting gas after 1922, the AC-1’s useful lift was significantly reduced.

Unfortunately, very little is known about the operational history of the AC-1 while it was based at Scott Field or of its ultimate fate.

It is known that the gondola of AC-1 was suspended beneath a larger 200,600 cubic foot Type TC envelope in 1927 to create the airship TC-12-264 and the A C-1 did not appear in the inventory of Scott Field airships dated June 1, 1926.

  Comments