Despite being inflated with 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen gas, Luftschiff Zeppelin had a smoking room! Would you have felt safe?
The iconic German commercial passenger-carrying Luftschiff Zeppelin #129, also known as the Hindenburg, was the largest airship by envelope volume. The most bizarre and rather ironic thing about the Hindenburg was that, even though it was inflated with 7 million cubic feet of highly flammable hydrogen gas, it had a special smoking room!
It was kept at a higher pressure than the rest of the ship at all times to ensure that no leaking hydrogen could enter the room, and it was separated from the rest of the passenger section by a double-door airlock. Would that have made you feel safe enough to enjoy a smoke?
The smoking room was closely monitored by a member of the zeppelin’s staff, and only one electric lighter was provided. Matches, lighters, or other open flames were definitely not allowed anywhere on the airship. Because the smoking room was on B Deck, and since hydrogen is lighter than air, it is unlikely that any leaking gas would have drifted downward. It would have escaped upward.
On May 6th, 1937 at the end of a North American transatlantic journey the Hindenburg suddenly burst into flames – four minutes after ground handlers grabbed hold of a pair of landing lines. It dropped to the ground in just 37 seconds and thirty six people were killed. The exact location of the initial fire, its source of ignition, and the initial source of fuel remain unknown.