Above seen the Passenger Airship Graf Zeppelin flying over the port of Amsterdam in October 1929, a photo hanging on the wall of Rudy Puister in Spain. The Airship was a large German passenger-carrying hydrogen-filled rigid airship which operated commercially from 1928 to 1937. It was named after the German pioneer of airships, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who held the rank of Graf or Count in the German nobility. During its operating life the great airship made 590 flights, covering more than a million miles,
Dr. Eckener commanded the Graf Zeppelin on its first intercontinental trip, a transatlantic crossing which left Friedrichshafen, Germany, at 07:54 on October 11, 1928, and arrived in the United States at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey, on October 15 after having travelled 9,926 km in 111 hours. Notwithstanding the heavy headwinds and stormy weather that slowed the journey, Eckener had nevertheless repeated the success of his first transatlantic crossing made four years earlier in October, 1924, to deliver the D-LZ126 (renamed the USS Los Angeles) to the U.S. Navy.
Eckener and the crew were welcomed enthusiastically with a "ticker tape" parade in New York the next day and a subsequent invitation to the White House.
A portion of the damaged fabric covering removed from the Graf Zeppelin in October 1928, after its first transatlantic flight from Germany to NAS Lakehurst, NJ.This first transatlantic trip was not without its difficulties, however, as 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 east Bermuda(35N, 42W). 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 to not fall to the raging seas just below. In the interest of
safety, the riggers (who included 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 October 15, passed over Washington, D.C., at 12:20PM, Baltimore, MD, at 1 PM, Philadelphia, PA, at 2:40 PM, New York City at 4 PM, and landed at NAS Lakehurst at 5:38PM.
In addition to the passengers and crew, there was also a stowaway on the return flight from America, 19-year-old Clarence Terhune, who had secreted himself onboard the Graf Zeppelin in Lakehurst, New Jersey. He appears in a Gaumont Graphic Newsreel working for his passage in the airship's kitchen. Terhune was returned to the U.S. on the French liner SS Ile de France along with six airship passengers.
Flown cover autographed by the Graf Zeppelin's commander, Dr. Hugo Eckener from the nearly disastrous 1929 "Interrupted Flight". Although the Graf Zeppelin would eventually have a safe and highly successful nine-year career, the airship was almost lost just over half a year after its maiden flight while attempting to make its second trip to the United States in May, 1929. Shortly after dark the first night of the flight ("1. Amerikafahrt 1929") on May 16, the airship lost power in two of its five engines while over the Mediterranean off the southwest coast of Spain forcing Dr.Eckener to abandon the trip and return to Friedrichshafen. While flying up the Rh鬾e Valley in France against a stiff headwind the next afternoon, however, two of the remaining three engines also failed and the airship began to be pushed backwards toward the seaAs Dr. Eckener desperately looked for a suitable place to crash-land the airship, the French Air Ministry advised him that he would be permitted to land at the Naval Airship Base at Cuers-Pierrefeu about ten miles from Toulon to use the mooring mast and hangar of the lost airship Dixmude (France's only dirigible which crashed in the Mediterranean in 1923 resulting in the loss of 52 lives) if the Graf could reach the facility before being blown out to sea. Although barely able to control the Graf on its one remaining engine, Eckener managed to make a difficult but successful emergency night landing at Cuers. After making temporary repairs, the Graf finally returned to Friedrichshafen on May 24. Mail carried on the flight received a one-line cachet reading "Delivery delayed due to cancelation of the 1st America trip"and was held at Friedrichshafen until August 1, 1929, when the airship made another attempt to cross the Atlantic for Lakehurst, arriving on August 4, 1929. Four days later, the Graf Zeppelin departed Lakehurst for another daring enterprise - a complete circumnavigation of the globe.Starting there on August 8, 1929, Graf Zeppelin flew back across the Atlantic to Friedrichshafen to refuel before continuing on August 15 across the vastness of Siberia to Tokyo (Kasumigaura Naval Air Station), a nonstop leg of 6,988 miles (11,246 km), arriving three days later on August 18. Dr. Eckener believed that some of the lands they crossed in Siberia had never before been seen by modern explorers. After staying in Tokyo for five days, on August 23, the Graf Zeppelin continued across the Pacific to California flying first over San Francisco before heading south to stop at Mines Field in Los Angeles for the first ever nonstop flight of any kind across the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific leg was 5,998 miles (9,653 km) and took three days. The airship's final leg across the United States took it over Chicago before landing back at Lakehurst NAS on August 29, taking two days and covering 2,996 miles (4,822 km).
The flying time for the Lakehurst to Lakehurst legs was 12 days and 11 minutes. The entire voyage took 21 days, 5 hours and 31 minutes including the initial and final trips between Friedrichshafen and NAS Lakehurst during which time the airship travelled 49,618 km (30,831 miles) whereas the distance covered on the designated "Round the World"
portion from Lakehurst to Lakehurst was 31,400 km (19,500 miles).
Among the passengers on board the return flight from Lakehurst to Friedrichshafen, which departed on 1 September, were the newly-wed Arctic explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins and his bride Suzanne Bennett. They had married two days earlier and the trip was their wedding gift from Hearst, whom Wilkins had reported for during the initial Around The World trip. A U.S. franked letter carried on the whole trip from Lakehurst to Lakehurst required $3.55 USD in postage, the equivalent in 2007 of roughly $43 if based on the CPI.
The semidocumentary film Farewell is about this flight.