Johannisthal air disaster

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The Johannisthal air disaster was one of the first multiple-fatality air disasters in history. It involved the Imperial German Navy's L 2 airship manufactured by Luftschiffbau Zeppelin as LZ 18. Its test flight resulted in the death of all 28 passengers and crew on board. On 17 October 1913, at approximately 10:30am local time, hydrogen gas which was being vented was sucked into the forward engine and ignited causing the airship to explode and burn. It crashed near Johannisthal Air Field about 10 miles southeast of Berlin. This accident occurred a little over a month after the Helgoland Island Air Disaster.

Johannisthal air disaster
Crash Zeppelin LZ18 (LII).jpg
Painting of LZ18 descending in flames after the engine fire.
Date17 October 1913
SummaryIn-flight explosion
Sitenear Johannisthal Air Field
Aircraft typeAirship
Aircraft nameLZ18 (manufacturer's designation)
OperatorImperial German Navy
RegistrationL 2 (military designation)


The "Almanac and Year-Book for 1914" reported that the airship "was destroyed by the explosion of a gasoline tank, which occurred as the ship was making a trial trip above the city of Johannisthal, near Berlin. All except one of the twenty-seven military men on board, including the entire admiralty trial board, were killed.

Thousands, who had been watching the evolutions of the L-2, which, if accepted, was to have been the flagship of Germany's new aerial fleet, heard a heavy detonation and saw the craft suddenly become enveloped in flames and drop to the ground from a height of 900 feet.

On reaching the spot in the highway where the airship fell the spectators found nothing but a mass of crumpled aluminum and twisted wreckage. The only man found alive was Lieut. Baron von Bieul, a guest on the trip, who was fatally injured. The passengers of the center gondola were blown through the sides of the car by the explosion and their bodies fell a quarter of a mile away from the wreck of the dirigible.

The pilot of the airship was Capt. Gluth, who had been in Count Zeppelin's employ for a long time.

The admiralty trial board consisted of seven officers, including Lieutenant-Commander Behnish, and Lieut. Freyer, both personal friends of Emperor William, Naval Constructors Neumann and Pietzler, Naval Engineer Busch, Lieut. Trenk and Chief Engineer Haussmann were among the others killed."[1][2][3]


  1. ^ Langland, James, M. A., compiler, "Almanac and Year-Book for 1914", The Chicago Daily News Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1913, page 397.
  2. ^ Plumbe, George Edward; Langland, James; Pike, Claude Othello (1913). "Chicago Daily News Almanac and Year Book".
  3. ^ "10 Worst Airship Disasters in History". 2012-11-05.

52°26′12″N 13°31′4″E / 52.43667°N 13.51778°E / 52.43667; 13.51778Coordinates: 52°26′12″N 13°31′4″E / 52.43667°N 13.51778°E / 52.43667; 13.51778