The airships Zeppelin and Hindenburg operated the route Frankfurt-Rio de Janeiro, with a stop in Recife, from 1930 to 1937.
On May 25, 1930, after a stopover in Recife four days before, it was the turn of the Cariocas, from Rio de Janeiro, to dazzle with the Graf Zeppelin.
“- Hurry! Come see the Zeppelin go by!” That was how Alicia Momsen Miller, 5 years old, was called by her mother to see the novelty going over the backyard of his home in Rio.
“When circulating in our city with softness and grace, he went before the sun and cast a giant shadow over us,” Alicia described later.
In 1933, technicians from the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin, came to the then federal capital looking for suitable places to install airfields and hangars. They chose an area in the Santa Cruz neighborhood in western Rio.
Work began on the following year. The design, assembly techniques and most of the materials used came from Germany.
One station was specially constructed with steel mast, to anchor the Zepellin in Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, and a tower was build in Jequiá camp, Recife (still preserved).
On December 26, 1936, President Getulio Vargas led the inauguration of Bartolomeu de Gusmão airfield – with a hangar of 58 m high and a hydrogen plant (gas to inflate airships and made them float), as well as offices, accommodations, a building for mixing and storage of gases and a train line to take travelers to the city center.
The LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin had 5 engines and did reach 128 km / h top speed and use to travel to 900m of altitude.
The LZ 129 Graf Hindenburg with 4 Mercedes Benz engines of 1,200 HP each, 200,000 cubic meters of hydrogen, reached 115 km / h speed.
The Airships were 245 meters long, carried 50 passengers and 40 crews, with great luxury and comfort, cuisine with award-winning chefs, private-bed cabins. The ships had 16,000 km of flight autonomy.
The impeccable engineering of these air ships was proud of Germany and was Third Reich’s propaganda vehicle.
But the airport of zeppelins in Rio was short lived. The crash of the Hindenburg in New Jersey, on May 6th, 1937, death struck the credibility of that playful resource transport. From the 97 people on board, 36 died carbonized or jump off the airship on fire.
The start of the 2nd War was a whitewash. The Bartolomeu Gusmão turned to a military base. But his hangar is now the only one in the world dedicated to zeppelins that is still standing.
The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) almost had airships, because during the 2nd World War, two units of US Navy were based in Brazil, ZPN-41 in São Luiz, in State of Maranhão, responsible for patrol ASW (anti submarine war) from Fortaleza to Macapa. And ZPN-42 was responsible for patrol Maceió to Rio de Janeiro.
Each unit had 8 airships semi-rigid ZNP-K. Graduated FAB officers operated these aircraft in conjunction with the US Navy, and according with the agreements of Lend Lease in the post war, these devices would be on FAB’s possession, which did not occur, as they were exchanged for Lockheeds Ventura.