Best retirement idea: making a 20-foot airship replica that flies

This is Jack Clemens. That up there? Why, that's Jack Clemens' pet airship, and it took him over two and a half years to build it. (He would have been done sooner, but his cat jumped on the first model.)

The second model, actually, didn't fare much better: like the real airship it's modeled after, Clemens lost it to bad weather during a particularly windy test flight.

Third time proved a charm, and Clemens is now the proud pilot of a 20-foot-long, remote-controlled replica of the USS Macon, an airship that served the U.S. Navy back in the 1930s before going down in a storm in '35.

Clemens' creation is extra impressive as, like the Macon before it, he isn't simply pumping a balloon full of gas as one would with a blimp. From Popular Science:

The Macon was an airship, not a blimp, meaning it had a rigid hull. A backbone made from 12 circular frames connected with strips of wood called longerons gave the 785-foot-long craft its form. Clemens wanted to mimic the structure in his model, so he built a jig to ensure that the frames — made from thousands of balsa-wood sticks — were precisely the right size. Although the Macon's skin was a mix of cotton muslin and metal-colored sealant, Clemens's model used Mylar because it was lightweight, tough and the right color.

Clemens, a retired computer engineer, used to drive by the Moffett Field hangar in California that housed the USS Macon on his way to work. He hopes to one day fly it there as a fitting tribute, and, down the line, is considering (read: his wife is "asking" him) donating the RC craft to a Moffett Field museum currently under construction. A 20-foot airship, it turns out, takes up quite a bit of garage space.

Via PopSci

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