Refueling at Sea was Always Dangerous

We Practiced Refueling From Ships at Sea

In-flight refueling approach.

Our missions were often 20 to 30 hours duration in the air. Our blimp burned a lot of fuel, especially when operating in exercises. We experimented with different tactics for getting fuel from the ships up to our blimp. One of the things we tried was getting fuel pumped up to our flying blimp from an aircraft carrier deck. They had a hose laid out on the deck and all we had to do was lower our winch, hoist the hose up, put it in the tank and say "fill'er up". Right? Wrong!

In-flight refueling operation with Lyte.

This was a dangerous operation because blimps don't do well flying low and slow near pointed ship masts while a long heavy gasoline hose is pulling and swinging on the blimp car. One time the weight of the hose caused our winch to jam and stop working. We had to cut the cable and drop the hose.

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ZPG-2N over the aircraft carrier Lyte.

Another time someone came up with the idea of hoisting up a huge rubber bag filled with gasoline rather than using a hose. All we had to do was lower the blimp winch cable, hoist the bag up, and pump the gas out of the bag. Right? Wrong! That was tried once. The bag of gasoline was hoisted off the carrier deck without much of a problem. Next, the blimp slowed down a little to move the bag back over the end of the carrier deck. Unfortunately, the sudden additional weight and the slower speed lowered the altitude a bit. The bag on the long winch cable swung back once, then forward and under the carrier deck. The swinging bag of gasoline hit a gun mount and burst! There was no fire, but this refueling method was never tried again.

Approaching tanker for refueling.

We also tried refueling our blimp from a tanker ship. To me that seemed a little harder because we had to stay off to the side of the tanker and out of the masts.

In-flight refueling from tanker.

The heavy hose had a nasty habit of pulling our slow flying blimp right over and down toward the masts. The heavy hose also pulled the winch cable sideways and jammed the winch once. We had to use the cable cutters and drop the hose and part of our blimp winch cable.

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© Copyright 2002, revised 2014 by Lawrence Rodrigues
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