LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin (Deutsches Luftschiff Zeppelin #127; Registration: D-LZ 127) was a German-built and -operated, passenger-carrying, hydrogen-filled, rigid airship which operated commercially from 1928 to 1937. When it entered commercial service in 1928, it became the first commercial passenger transatlantic flight service in the world. It was named after the German pioneer of airships, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who was a count (Graf) in the German nobility. During its operating life, the airship made 590 flights covering more than 1.7 million kilometers (over 1 million miles). It was designed to be operated by a crew of 36 officers and men. The LZ 127 was the longest rigid airship at the time of its completion and was only surpassed by the USS Akron in 1931. It was scrapped for fighter plane parts in 1940.
First intercontinental flight (1928)
In October 1928 the Graf Zeppelin made its first intercontinental trip, a 9,926 km (6,168 mi), 111-hour crossing from Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst with Dr. Eckener in command. Capt. Ernst Lehmann, who would be killed in the crash of the Hindenburg at Lakehurst eight and a half years later, served as First Officer on the flight and U.S. Navy LCDR Charles E. Rosendahl, commander of the ZR-3 USS Los Angeles (ex-LZ 126), made the westward journey during which he also stood watch as a regular ship's officer. Despite encountering heavy headwinds and stormy weather, Eckener had repeated the success of his first transatlantic crossing four years earlier when he delivered the LZ-126 to the U.S. Navy in October 1924 and was welcomed enthusiastically then both with a "ticker tape" parade in New York and a subsequent invitation to the White House. On this first transatlantic trip the airship suffered potentially serious damage to its port tail fin on the third day of the flight when a large section of the linen covering was ripped loose while passing through a mid-ocean squall line at night about 1,500 miles (2,400 km) east of Bermuda (35°N, 42°W). With the engines stopped, the ship's riggers did their best to tie down the torn fabric to the framework and sew blankets to the ship's envelope while attempting not to fall to the raging seas below. In the interest of safety, the riggers (including Dr. Eckener's son, Knut) retreated back into the ship whenever it dropped to within a couple of hundred feet of the ocean's surface. This allowed the engines to be restarted to maintain lift.
The Graf crossed the U.S. coast at Cape Charles, Virginia, around 10 am on 15 October, passed over Washington, D.C., at 12:20 pm, Baltimore at 1 pm, Philadelphia at 2:40 pm, New York City at 4 pm, and landed at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station at 5:38 pm. After an almost two-week stay in the United States, during which time its damaged tail was repaired, the Graf left Lakehurst for Germany at 1:24 am on 29 October and arrived back in Friedrichshafen shortly before dawn on 1 November. Grace Marguerite Hay Drummond-Hay, the British journalist, was the first woman to fly transatlantic on the outward leg; Clara Adams become the first female transatlantic ticketed passenger when she traveled on the Graf Zeppelin's return flight.