Sky Pirates Photos
In the 1930s, travel by dirigible was becoming routine, and luxurious. The Graf Zeppelin was one of the most famous. It, and other dirigibles, made many trips across the oceans and across the continents. Below is a map of one such route (seen from the North Pole) taking passengers literally around the world.
These huge lighter-than-air ships were lifted into the sky using hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is terribly dangerous as the slightest spark ignites it and a huge explosion erupts. And this did happen. In 1937 the dirigible Hindenburg exploded while landing in New Jersey. It was the last of several bad accidents, and it was enough to put an end to travel by dirigible.
It's because of this that Mike and Josh choose to lift their airship using helium, instead of hydrogen. Helium is very safe, and lifts even better than hydrogen, but is much harder to come by since it's relatively scarce in our atmosphere.
Zeppelin owners in the 1930s couldn't obtain helium, so settled for hydrogen. Today, all Mike and Josh have to do is order the helium they need and it arrives in a big truck, like the one at left.
Here's a photo of the dining room on the dirigible Hindenburg. Only the rich could afford to travel in such luxury, but they could travel from Europe to the United States in a few days instead of weeks.
The Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle built many of the planes the United States military used to fight World War II. As described in Sky Pirates, the government was afraid enemies of the U.S. might try to bomb those factories. So they covered the entire Boeing plant in netting, seen in the picture to the left.
On top of the netting, they built an entire town, using lightweight materials. They even put mannequins (the "dummies" stores use to display clothing) working outside to make the town look populated.
From the air, as from an enemy bomber plane, all a pilot could see was just another American town. The airplane factory was hidden underneath.
Of course, in Sky Pirates it's not the Boeing factory that was covered, but the Tilmar Aircraft Company outside of Seacrest.
And here's a fun fact -- Author Arnold Ytreeide made up the name for that factory in honor of his father's parents (and his grandparents) Tilley and Marius. His grandfather, Marius, immigrated to the U.S. from Norway in 1904 and made a life here. You can even see his name on the honor wall at Ellis Island in New York.
Sky Pirates also talks about children being used to watch for enemy planes during WWII. This really happened! In fact, author Arnold Ytreeide's mother-in-law told how she was trained to watch for planes while in the fourth grade. When it was her turn, she'd climb into a tower and watch the skies over the coast of Oregon. Citizens all over the country stood post in such towers. If they saw something suspicious, they'd call the nearest military center where they tracked all such reports on a huge map table.