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Home > Fact Sheets > Baldwin Dirigible: U.S. Army's First Airship


Posted 4/3/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
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Baldwin Dirigible
Baldwin Dirigible. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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The first powered aircraft ordered by the Aeronautical Division was not an airplane, but rather a dirigible designed by Thomas Scott Baldwin. The Signal Corps had long urged the U.S. Army to buy a dirigible, and many European armies had them by the turn of the century.

After seeing Baldwin demonstrate a dirigible at the St. Louis air meet in 1907, Brig. Gen. James Allen, Chief Signal Officer, discussed purchasing one for the Signal Corps. During the summer of 1908, the Army tested a Baldwin non-rigid dirigible -- and formally accepted it as Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1. On Aug. 28, Lts. Frank Lahm, Thomas Selfridge and Benjamin Foulois were taught to fly it.

Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1 was sent to Omaha, Neb., and it remained there as the only Signal Corps dirigible. The Army scrapped Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1 in 1912 and did not purchase another dirigible until after World War I.

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