The Scrapbooks of Willis B. Haviland

An Earlybird's Scrapbook

Early Langley Field Experiments
The Crash of the Roma, February 21, 1922

Book Two, Page Eighty Six


After WW-I the Army was interested in experimenting with lighter than air craft. It purchased a semi-rigid dirigible named the Roma from its WW-I allies, the Italians. In order to improve the performance of this airship, the Army replaced the Italian provided engines with six "Liberty" 400 horsepower engines with eleven foot propellers.

While returning from a test run the crew of the Roma encountered a vibration so extreme that many were thrown to the floor. Some hydrogen gas escaped and reportedly a small fire started. As the ship descended out of control it struck high tension power lines causing the bulk of the hydrogen to explode and destroy the ship. The resulting catastrpohy killed thirty four men. Eleven personnel escaped, many of them injured.

It was speculated that the more powerful engines had been too much for the airship. Later an investigation concluded that the accident was precipitated by weak rudder supports that failed and resulted in a loss of altitude control.

For a complete story of the Roma and to view images in addition to the ones presented on this site, please visit Remembering the Airship Roma.

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Off Ships
The Roma
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