They Sailed the Skies: U.S. Navy Balloons and the Airship Program

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9781591149149: They Sailed the Skies: U.S. Navy Balloons and the Airship Program

Between the two world wars, free ballooning was practiced for sport and science. Each year aeronauts (lighter-than-air pilots) from the United States and Europe would compete in an international race to determine who could fly the farthest. The U.S. Navy eagerly participated in these events, and one of its officers, Thomas G. W. "Tex" Settle, would become world famous for his wins. The only airman in his time qualified to pilot a free balloon, blimp, glider, and airplane, and to command a rigid airship, Settle was also the first American to fly a pressurized cabin into the stratosphere. This book tells the story of Settle and Navy ballooning during the Golden Age of Flight against the backdrop of the American naval airship program. J. Gordon Vaeth captures the excitement, enthusiasm, and tragedies of this little-known aspect of naval aviation and the colorful personalities who pioneered the program. It is a story that lapses during the war years, but resumes full force in the mid-1940s when two Lakehurst air station officers, Harris F. Smith and William J. Gunther, revived it with their flights. M. Lee Lewis and Malcolm D. Ross followed. Taking advantage of the new plastic balloon technology, they initiated a series of manned scientific flights into the stratosphere. For the armchair reader the author vividly conveys what it was like to fly in a wicker basket under a bag filled with flammable gas in all kinds of weather. An excellent collection of photographs illustrate the text.

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About the Author:

J. Gordon Vaeth served with U.S. Navy airships in World War II and came to know many of the aeronauts who competed in the skies. A resident of Olympia, Washington, he is the author of seven books, including Blimps and U-Boats.

From Booklist:

Retired naval officer and lighter-than-air veteran Vaeth offers a valuable and concise summary of the U.S. Navy's efforts to fly while buoyed by gas. The great dirigibles, of which four out of five crashed, have been the primary focus of previous similar accounts, and they are clearly and cogently dealt with here. Less covered have been the nonrigid airships, whose story began with a class of vehicles based on a British design; these served ably in World War I. The interwar period was followed by a veritable renaissance of blimps and of training men to fly them during World War II. Naval blimps pretty much died out after the war, but the swan song of U.S. Navy lighter-than-air use, the high--altitude endurance flights of Project Strato-Lab, ceased only with the coming of space flight. Besides all this, Vaeth even notes naval officers flying in balloon races, among them his friend the late Thomas Settle, who once held a world high-altitude record. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Vaeth, J. Gordon
Published by US Naval Institute Press (2005)
ISBN 10: 1591149142 ISBN 13: 9781591149149
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Vaeth, J. Gordon
Published by US Naval Institute Press
ISBN 10: 1591149142 ISBN 13: 9781591149149
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