German dirigible, the largest rigid airship ever constructed, and the victim of a spectacular disaster. The Hindenburg was an 804-foot- (245-metre-) long airship of conventional Zeppelin design that was first launched at Friedrichshafen, Germany, in April 1936. It had a maximum speed of 84 miles per hour (135 km/h) and a cruising speed of 78 miles per hour (126 km/h). In 1936 the Hindenburg inaugurated commercial air service across the North Atlantic by carrying 1,002 passengers on 10 scheduled round trips between Germany and the United States.

The Hindenburg in flames at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, May 6, 1937

On May 6, 1937, while landing at Lakehurst, N.J., on the first of its scheduled 1937 trans-Atlantic crossings, the hydrogen-inflated Hindenburg burst into flames (see photograph) and was completely destroyed. Thirty-six of the 97 persons aboard were killed. The fire was generally attributed to a discharge of atmospheric electricity in the vicinity of a hydrogen gas leak from the airship, though it has also been speculated that the dirigible was the victim of an anti-Nazi act of sabotage. The Hindenburg disaster marked the end of the use of rigid airships in commercial air transportation.