When you hear the term airship, you might think of the Goodyear blimp. But there was a period in history when the United States Navy commissioned airships- including the Shenandoah, which launched in 1923. The massive ship contained 20 gas cells comprised of chemically inert helium, which reduced some of the fire hazards associated with hydrogen.
With a maximum speed of nearly 60 knots, Shenandoah completed several successful flights over a 2 year span, but encountered a violent thunderstorm over Ohio in 1925. Strong updrafts proved too much, and the ship crashed- killing 14 crew members in the process. The destruction of the Shenandoah may have been tragic, but it helped illuminate the need for better forecasting in military and naval operations. Lessons learned would lead to improvements in meteorology for decades to come.