The airship USSR-W6 "Ossoawiachim" ( Russian СССР-В6 Осоавиахим ) was the greatest success of the Soviet lighter-than-air fleet and also the largest airship ever built in the USSR (Soviet Union). In October 1937 it broke the endurance record for airships of all classes with a journey time of 130 hours and 27 minutes. OSSOAWIACHIM was the name of the "Society for the Advancement of Defense, Aviation and Chemistry", a paramilitary organization of the Soviet Union.
Little , partly contradicting and hardly verifiable information is available about Soviet airship travel. This is due, on the one hand, to the secrecy pursued by the Soviet Union, which disclosed practically no information, and, on the other hand, to the propaganda, which often advertised large projects, but left their implementation in the dark. Therefore, the information in this article should also be viewed critically.
Not least because of the visits to large airships such as the Norge and the LZ 127 “Graf Zeppelin” , the desire to build large airships also grew in the Soviet Union. The Italian airship designer Umberto Nobile was therefore invited to promote airship construction in the Soviet Union. This decision was approved by Stalin himself, while Mussolini , hoping for good propaganda for Italy, agreed.
Nobile moved to Moscow in May 1932. However, he was at the very beginning. Initially, the shipyard had neither an airship hangar, nor workshops or materials. Nobile was entrusted with the training of future Soviet aeronauts and technicians. The design and construction of the airship began after many hurdles in the summer of 1933.
As usual for Stalin and the Soviet Union, such projects were not given the sole responsibility of a foreigner. Independently of Nobile, Soviet technicians built a semi-rigid airship with a volume of 9150 m³ in August 1934. It was named W7 . However, it was destroyed by fire just a few days after completion in the airship hangar.
Nobile's work continued, however. W6 was built in Dolgoprudny and made its maiden voyage on November 5, 1934 under Umberto Nobile. Two days later, the ship sailed triumphantly over Moscow and was part of the celebrations for the October Revolution. The W6 was "Ossoawiachim" (short for Obschtschestwo sodejstwija oborone, aviazionnomu i chimitscheskomu stroitjelstwu - Society for the Promotion of the defense, aviation and chemistry ( Russian Общество содействия обороне, авиационному и химическому строительству )), named after an organization that aviation, to popularize with the general public.
W6 was a further development of Nobiles Italia with a length of approx. 105 m, a diameter of approx. 18-20 m, a volume of 19,400 m³. The float was divided into six gas cells. The net weight was about 12 tons, the takeoff weight 21.3 tons. The length of the gondola was 15.12 m. Three piston engines with a total of 590 kW (other source: 3 × 191 kW) enabled a speed of 93 km / h. Other sources speak of 115 km / h. The ship was operated by a crew of 15.
All airships built during Nobile's stay in the Soviet Union from 1931 to 1936 were intended to transport passengers. USSR-W6 was supposed to drive the line between Moscow and Sverdlovsk , but could not be used because there were no airship hangars , anchor masts and refueling facilities. It was not until 1936 that an anchor mast was finally erected in Sverdlovsk.
In 1937, airship captain Pankow carried out a 79-hour successful test run on the Moscow-Sverdlovsk-Moscow route with the W6, and a continuous record run of 130 hours and 27 minutes with the engines running continuously. The record run began in Dolgoprudnyj ( Russian Долгопрудный ) on September 29 and ended on October 4. The distance covered was allegedly around 5000 km. These trips served to prepare for regular airship traffic.
The sources of further trips are very thin.
On February 5, 1938 at 4:45 p.m., the ship sank. A group of Soviet Arctic Researchers under Ivan Papanin had near the North Pole the drift station North Pole-1 based, eventually the Greenland east coast driving. There the ice began to break up, whereupon the crew issued a call for help on February 1, 1938. Then USSR-W6 was sent out to take in the researchers. The accident happened during the transfer from Moscow to Murmansk . This trip was supposed to serve as a test for the arctic conditions. From Murmansk, the aeronauts wanted to set off for Greenland to take in the researchers.
The ship collided near Kandalaksha with the 440 m high mountain Neblo ( Russian Небло ). According to the official version, the “pre-revolutionary” maps showed a depression up to 30 m below sea level at the site of the accident. Unofficially, it is reported that due to the distrust of the old maps and poor visibility, the first commandant Nikolai Gudovantsev gave an order to climb to 800 m. Ivan Pankow, the second in command, took a lot of time to carry it out, because he feared that the poor visibility would cause him to lose his bearings. Instead, it stayed at an altitude of 300 m. Of the 19 people on board, the 13 people in the cabin were killed and three others were injured.
The grave of the airship is in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow. The researchers on the ice floe were rescued by icebreakers . It is believed that this accident was also the reason for the end of the Soviet airship building program at the time.
In 1968 a memorial was erected next to the remaining rubble on Mount Neblo, on which the airship crashed, by students and the local administration.
- FliegerRevue January 2010, pp. 54–55, The failed rescue trip
- According to the source "The Great Zeppelins", the W7 was a 38,000 m³ ship that was built in 1934 by Trojani, Nobile and Katanski