The USS Macon was a military airship operated by the United States from 1933-1935. Retired computer engineer Jack Clemens spent two and a half years building a 20-foot replica that flies for 45 minutes at a time:
The Macon was an airship, not a blimp, meaning it had a rigid hull. A backbone made from 12 circular frames connected with strips of wood called longerons gave the 785-foot-long craft its form. Clemens wanted to mimic the structure in his model, so he built a jig to ensure that the frames--made from thousands of balsa-wood sticks--were precisely the right size. Although the Macon’s skin was a mix of cotton muslin and metal-colored sealant, Clemens’s model used Mylar because it was lightweight, tough and the right color.
Clemens calculated that to get his craft to fly, he would need a total of eight small model-airplane propellers anchored to the sides of the frame. “It takes very little propulsive force to move an airship,” he explains. The propellers are powered by a single 2.5-ounce lithium-polymer battery that sits in the nose of the craft and helps balance the weight of pulleys and servomotors in the tail.
The airship takes up a lot of room in Clemens' home, so he hopes to donate it to a museum. Link | Photo: Cody Pickens