Turning a Temporary Skeleton Into a Work of Art - Moffett's Hangar 1

  • Apr 19, 2014 3:18pm GMT
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Courtesy NASA:

NASA's Hangar 1: Among the world's largest freestanding structures

Hangar One is one of the world's largest freestanding structures, covering 8 acres (32,000 m2). The hangar was constructed in 1931. It is a Naval Historical Monument and a State of California Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. In May 2008, The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed Hangar One on their list of America's "Most Endangered Places". NASA's Ames Research Center is currently evaluating bids to lease the hangar and Moffett Federal Airfield.

In this image, Hangar One is set in blue courtesy of event planners and sponsors of the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics and Life Sciences event held in December 13, 2013 at Moffett Federal Airfield in California.

Moffett Field's "Hangar One" (built during the Depression era for the USS Macon) and the row of World War II blimp hangars are still some of the largest unsupported structures in the country. The airship hangar is constructed on a network of steel girders sheathed with galvanized steel. It rests firmly upon a reinforced pad anchored to concrete pilings. The floor covers eight acres (32,000 m²) and can accommodate Six (6) (360 feet x 160 feet) football fields. The airship hangar itself, measures 1,133 feet (343 m) long and 308 feet (93 m) wide.

The building has aerodynamic architecture. Its walls curve upward and inward, to form an elongated dome 198 feet (60 m) high. The clam-shell doors were designed to reduce turbulence when the Macon moved in and out on windy days. The "orange peel" doors, weighing 500 tons (511.88 tons) each, are moved by their own 150 horsepower motors operated via an electrical control panel.

The airship hangar's interior is so large that fog sometimes forms near the ceiling. A person unaccustomed to its vastness is susceptible to optical disorientation. Looking across its deck, planes and tractors look like toys. Along its length maintenance shops, inspection laboratories and offices help keep the hangar busy. Looking up, a network of catwalks for access to all parts of the structure can be seen. Two elevators meet near the top, allowing maintenance personnel to get to the top quickly and easily.

Narrow gauge tracks run through the length of the hangar. During the period of lighter-than-air dirigibles and non-rigid aircraft, the rails extended across the apron and into the fields at each end of the hangar. This tramway facilitated the transportation of an airship on the mooring mast to the airship hangar interior or to the flight position. During the brief period that the Macon was based at Moffett, Hangar One accommodated not only the giant airship but several smaller non-rigid lighter-than-air craft simultaneously.

USS Macon (ZRS-5) was a rigid airship built and operated by the United States Navy for scouting and served as a "flying aircraft carrier", designed to carry biplane parasite aircraft, five single-seat Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk for scouting or two-seat Fleet N2Y-1 for training. In service for less than two years, in 1935 Macon was damaged in a storm and lost off California's Big Sur coast, though most of the crew were saved.