The Navy’s last dirigible, the USS Macon, was commissioned on June 23, 1933. She was built as an aircraft carrier and for scouting missions in the Pacific Ocean. The USS Macon took her first test flight in April of 1933, a few weeks after her sister ship, the USS Akron (ZRS-4) was lost during testing. The test flight of the USS Macon was successful so on June 23, 1933 she was commissioned in Lakehurst, New Jersey and then flew to her home right here in the Bay Area at Moffett Field. In October of 1933, the USS Macon began her two years of service from Hangar One at Moffett Field.
The USS Macon spent the rest of 1933 along the Pacific Coast fleet scouting and going on missions for the military. By April of 1934, the USS Macon was ready to fly east to Florida, but she experienced weather damaged and received a quick repair while in Opa-locka, Florida. After her repair, the USS Macon participated in Fleet Problem XV in the Caribbean through May 1933. After the exercise, the USS Macon returned to Moffett Field.
In July, 1933 the USS Macon took a long flight from Hangar One at Moffett Field over the Pacific Ocean in order to intercept the USS Houston which had been transporting President Franklin D. Roosevelt from Panama to Hawaii. While aiding the USS Houston, the USS Macon launched her Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk aircraft with the landing gear removed. This was a performance-enhancing practice which was considered normal procedure at the time when small fighting planes were launched from the airship.
The USS Macon continued to participate in exercise from Moffett Field throughout the Pacific Ocean, proving her ability to conduct strategic searches over long distances. Unfortunately rigid airships were controversial and the controversy was confirmed on February 12, 1935 when the USS Macon was severely damaged in a storm off Point Sur in the Monterey Bay in California. She sank into the sea which put an end to the Navy’s rigid airship program.
The USS Macon was 239 meters long and 44.6 meters tall. Her capacity was 72 tons with a volume of 6,500,000 cubic feet. The USS Macon could carry five F9C Sparrowhawk airplanes. She was originally built in Ohio by Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation with the help of a team of German airship engineers.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been conducting searches for the USS Macon wreckage and they have recovered portions of the airship and the aircraft she had been carrying. There is one airplane on display which had been recovered from the USS Macon and added to the National Registry of Historic Places in January 2010. The airplane is on display at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Big Sur, California inside the Steven F. Udarr-Hazy Center.