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Glendale and airship dreams

October 13, 2010|By Pat Grant

After the extent of the mishap had been assessed, Slate met with the stockholders and informed them that the damaged section could not be accessed and that the airship was effectively a total loss. He appealed for additional funds to start the project anew, but the "Crash of 29" had occurred two months earlier, eliminating all potential sources of financing.

Two years later, Slate, in the presence of newsreel cameras, climbed onto a catwalk high atop the hangar and, with tears in his eyes, dropped a 50-pound sandbag onto the hull. Rivets popped, ribs buckled and the hull of the airship crumpled to the floor. Slate's grand vision of building ever-bigger airships, capable of transporting 800 to 1,200 passengers, ended with the destruction of the "City of Glendale."

The hull was sold for scrap and sections of the hangar became hay barns in Arizona. Slate moved back to Oregon, where he continued to invent. He died in 1980 at age 99. Its runways too short to accommodate big jets, Grand Central Airport closed in 1955.

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The U.S. Army recently awarded a contract to Northrup Grumman for the design of an experimental airship capable of transporting an entire Army battalion and its equipment. The heavy-lift, low-energy potential of such an airship may someday result in the realization of Slate's grandiose dream of commercially viable cruising airships capable of carrying hundreds of passengers.

So next time you see Snoopy floating high above the Rose Bowl, envision the possibilities of an air-cruise to your favorite tropical island aboard a similar craft.

PAT GRANT has lived in Glendale for more than 30 years and was formerly a marketing manager for an insurance company. He may be reached at tfgranted@gmail.com.

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