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This Month in Scott AFB History: 24 November 1923-U.S. Air Service Airship TA-1 Maiden Flight at Scott Field

  • Published
  • By Mark Wilderman
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing History Office

On 24 November 1923, the new U.S. Army Air Service training airship, TA-1, made its maiden flight at Scott Field.

Background.  In the early 1920s, while the U.S. Army Air Service aggressively pursued the acquisition of large non-rigid and semi-rigid airships of all types, the Air Service also needed a smaller, more economical “primary” trainer to give student pilots familiarity in airship operations.  The solution was the Army “TA” (“TA” = Training, Type A) non-rigid airships, TA-1 and TA-2, which replaced the Goodyear “OA” type Pony Blimp and the Goodyear “OB” type Pony Blimp for airship pilot training. The most noticeable feature of the TA-type airships was the rigid metal air scoop feeding air into the ballonets that rose from the rear of the wooden control car.  TA-2 was nearly a duplicate of TA-1, except for the TA-2’s paraffin-coated envelope on the interior (as a barrier to prevent gas leaking).  The TA-type airships were the first Army airships to be designed for helium inflation.  The original contract cost for both TA-1 and TA-2 was $139,504.70.  The TA-3, TA-4, and TA-5 airships were improved versions of the TA-1 and TA-2, possessing greater useful lift, greater ease of operation, and improved reliability.  

General Characteristics.  TA-1 and TA-2 were 162 feet long, 39.3 feet in diameter, 53.5 feet high, and 49 feet wide.  The wooden control car was 18.5 feet long, 4.5 feet wide, 4.1 feet high, and weighed 2,583 pounds.  Envelope volume was 130,600 cubic feet of helium, providing 7,542 pounds of total lift and 1,871 pounds of useful lift.  Propulsion was provided by two Curtiss OX-5 engines rated at 70 horsepower apiece, each turning a wooden four-bladed eight-foot diameter propeller.  Full speed was 45 miles per hour with an endurance of 8.7 hours and a range of 390 miles.  Cruising speed was 36 miles per hour with an endurance of 14.5 hours and a range of 520 miles.  The crew normally consisted of five men. 

Operational History at Scott Field.   TA-1 was delivered to Scott Field on 30 October 1923, inflated with helium in the massive Scott Field Airship hangar on 15 November, and made its first flight on 24 November.   Its sister airhip, TA-2 ,was delivered to Scott Field on 23 November 1923.  Little is known of the operational history of TA-1 and TA-2 at Scott Field. In 1924, TA-1 and TA-2 received larger control surfaces for testing.  TA-2 was declared “limited standard” for manufacture in November 1928.  Another sister airship, TA-3, was delivered to Scott Field on 16 May 1925.  The airship suffered a mishap on 6 October 1926, when it struck the Airship Hangar doors and the envelope deflated.  The three-man crew from the 9th Airship Company escaped serious injury.  TA-4 was delivered to Scott Field on 3 June 1925.  TA-5-263 was shipped to Scott Field on 16 December 1925.  Little is known about the operational history of the TA-type training airships at Scott Field.  One TA-5-263 was still in service at Scott Field in May 1935.