THE HINDENBURG DISASTER
(May 6, 1937 – Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey)
The Official Story
THE HINDENBURG DISASTER
Duralumin (also called duraluminum, duraluminium, duralum, dural(l)ium, or dural) is a trade name for one of the earliest types of age-hardenable aluminium alloys. The term is a combination of Dürener and aluminium.
Its use as a trade name is obsolete.
Today the term mainly refers to aluminium–copper alloys, designated as the 2000 series by the International Alloy Designation System (IADS), as with 2014 and 2024 alloys used in airframe fabrication.
German scientific literature openly published information about duralumin, its composition and heat treatment, before the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Despite this, use of the alloy outside Germany did not occur until after fighting ended in 1918. Reports of German use during World War I, even in technical journals such as Flight, could still mis-identify its key alloying component as magnesium rather than copper. Engineers in the UK showed little interest in duralumin until after the war.
The earliest known attempt to use duralumin for a heavier-than-air aircraft structure occurred in 1916, when Hugo Junkers first introduced its use in the airframe of the Junkers J 3, a single-engined monoplane “technology demonstrator” that marked the first use of the Junkers trademark duralumin corrugated skinning. The Junkers company completed only the covered wings and tubular fuselage framework of the J 3 before abandoning its development. The slightly later, solely IdFlieg-designated Junkers J.I armoured sesquiplane of 1917, known to the factory as the Junkers J 4, had its all-metal wings and horizontal stabilizer made in the same manner as the J 3’s wings had been, like the experimental and airworthy all-duralumin Junkers J 7 single-seat fighter design, which led to the Junkers D.I low-wing monoplane fighter, introducing all-duralumin aircraft structural technology to German military aviation in 1918.
Its first use in aerostatic airframes came in rigid airship frames, eventually including all those of the “Great Airship” era of the 1920s and 1930s: the British-built R-100, the German passenger Zeppelins LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin, LZ 129 Hindenburg, LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II, and the U.S. Navy airships USS Los Angeles (ZR-3, ex-LZ 126), USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5).