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Airships Pioneers of the Puget Sound

The Puget Sound region has a long, but now largely forgotten, love affair with the airship.

Beginning with his first balloon flight in 1897 at the age of 15, Seattle airship pioneer L. G. Mecklem discovered a love for flying that led him to a career as a popular local aeronaut.


L. G. Mecklem, Aeronaut

In the course of his career, Mecklem performed a number of hazardous tricks while suspended from a trapeze affixed to a balloon. Even after suffering numerous unpredictable landings, Mecklem never failed to make further ascents.

In 1905, he piloted an oared airship designed by Captain Thomas Scott Baldwin in Chutes Park, Los Angeles.


Captain Baldwin's Oared Airship

But Mecklem wanted more, so he returned to Seattle and began to construct his own airship. Finally, in 1908, he was ready. Mecklem flew the tiny one-man Seattle Airship No. 1 twice from its hangar in Luna Park.

Mecklem's first flight revealed issues with the basic airship design. A tear in the envelope fabric forced a hard landing in the Sound. Following salvage and repairs, Seattle Airship No. 1 made her second flight. History was made, as this newspaper account makes clear:


Seattle Airship No. 1

10 July 1908--Seattle--Successfully making the flight from West Seattle to The Meadows, a distance of eight miles, L. G. Mecklem made his second ascension in the dirigible balloon which he made in Seattle. His landing was made in the presence of 10,000 people at the race track.

To prevent the airship from landing among the trees to the north of The Meadows, he was obliged to take off his shoes and throw them and two monkey wrenches he carried with him, overboard. By this means Mecklem lessened the weight enough so that he could cross the Duwamish river. He succeeded in steering around a tall tree that was in the way and then the gas bag settled on the ground. (source unknown)

The Strobel Airship A.Y.P.E., 1909



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