In the 1930s, hydrogen-filled airships, or dirigibles, seemed to be the future of commercial aviation.
The Hindenburg, a German airship, carried passengers across the Atlantic and reached a cruising speed of 84 miles per hour. On May 6, 1937, according to the Hindenburg News Archive, thousands of people looked up at the sky to watch the zeppelin land in Lakehurst, New Jersey.
Archived footage from the landing shows people cheering and then screaming as the Hindenburg bursts into flames and rolls to the bottom of the runway. 36 of the 97 people on board died. In nearly 30 seconds, the aircraft was destroyed.
Here are five things to know about the Hindenburg on the 78th anniversary of the disaster:
1. How was the Hindenburg?
The Hindenburg was equipped with a bar, a smoking room, toilets and cabins. In order to meet the weight requirements of the vessel, all installations have been made as light as possible. Even the cabin beds were aluminum, according to the German Zeppelin Museum. According to History.com, the ship's owners even had a small, lightweight grand piano.
The 804-foot-long airship was launched in March 1936 from Friedrichshafen, Germany. The zeppelin had a top speed of 84 miles per hour and a cruise speed of 78 miles per hour, according to History.com.
2. Why did the Hindenburg catch fire?
The airship was designed to be filled with helium, but was filled with hydrogen due to US helium export restrictions. Hydrogen is highly flammable, and the official cause of the fire was an "atmospheric electrical discharge" near a gas leak on the ship's surface, according to History.com. Conspiracy theories have called into question whether the tragedy was an act of anti-Nazi sabotage.
3. Smokers' delight or passenger peril?
Despite the flammability of the hydrogen-filled Airbus, the ship featured a smoking room. Passengers weren't allowed to bring matches or lighters on board, but they could buy cigars and cigarettes on the ship, according to History.com. Tobacco products can only be smoked in the pressure smoking room. A flight attendant stood by the door to make sure no one left the press room with a lit cigarette.
4. How many trips did the vessel take between North America and Germany?
The Hindenburg made its maiden flight in 1936. That year, the ship made 10 round trips between Germany and the United States, according to History.com, carrying a total of 1,002 passengers during the trips. The ship could carry up to 50 passengers and had room for the aircraft crew.
5. What is Hindenburg's connection to the Nazi party?
The ship was used by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels as a symbol of German strength and modern capabilities. The ship made several propaganda tours across the country, hovering over the Olympic Stadium in Berlin during the opening ceremony, hence the Hindenburg disaster of 1937. On one of the propaganda tours, the ship dropped leaflets encouraging the Germans to support the German advances. army. before World War II.