Zeppelin Tours Tulsa

by Steve Gerkin


Taken from the top of the Mayo of hotel, this 1929 photo depicts a 600-foot dirigible, the City of Los Angeles, as it floats over Tulsa at about forty miles per hour.

The America of the late ‘20s was a lively national community savoring a luxurious life between wars and a looming Great Depression. In Tulsa, oil baron Waitte Phillips was depositing an average of $25,000 a day into the Exchange National Bank at Third and Boston. In anticipation of supporting planned dirigible travel across the country, a network of dirigible moorings were constructed on the tallest buildings in larger cities, usually banks. Such was the case with the 1928 top-out completion of the Exchange National Bank.

As part of its reparation to the United States for our war debt, Germany gave the us the ZR-3 (Zeppelin Rigid #3) airship—the same kind of airship that was responsible for the destruction of London. The vessel was constructed under an agreement with the British that it would be a commercial passenger aircraft. The metal, substructured LTA (Lighter Than Air), arrived at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, on October 15, 1924.

President Coolidge commissioned the ZR-3 as a Navy vessel shortly thereafter.

“I’m going to name this new airship the Los Angeles because it has come to us from overseas like an angel of peace,” said Navy Secretary Curtis Wilbur.

The Los Angeles soon became an important public relations tool, ferrying dignitaries like the King and Queen of Siam across the country. No telling who was aboard the Los Angeles on that day in 1929 when it did a 40-mph fly-by of the Exchange National Bank mooring well below her 68 mph maximum.

Before being decommissioned in 1932 and stored in her own Lakehurst hanger, the Los Angeles logged over 172,000 miles and flew 331 missions. She had the distinction of being the only Navy dirigible that did not crash.