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Last edited 12 Jul 2022
A hangar is typically a large building that provides a free, open floor area, high ceiling and large volumetric space, that can be used for the storage, maintenance and construction of aircraft, from small aeroplanes to larger airships, aircraft and spaceships. The word relates to French and German terms that describe an enclosure around a house or home; hanghart, haim-gardor for hamlet-yard.
In recent years hangars have mostly been associated with structures housing aeroplanes, however many airship hangars were constructed across Western Europe and the USA during the 1900's to house various light aircraft, including the huge zeppelin airships or blimps. Although investment in the airship industry massively reduced after the Hindenberg disaster of May 1937, airship hangars continued to be built, with one of the most recent and largest, the Aerium Hangar (or CargoLifter AG) in the 1990's.
Many of the early buildings were demolished after the Hindenberg disaster, but some were preserved and used for other craft and some were repurposed, such as the early 1920's hangars located in Riga which now house the central market, or the reuse of the Aerium hangar as Tropical Islands, a swimming and leisure centre in Berlin Brandenburg. More recently with the ongoing pressures related to air travel and carbon emissions, there has been a renewed interest in airship travel, with the Goodyear Airdock in Akron being reactivated rather than repurposed, to produce new and modern variations on the airship.
Early hangars for smaller aircraft such as those used by the pioneers of flight the Wright Brothers were mainly constructed from timber. However, by 1915 the use of trusses such as the Belfast Truss (a curved lattice girder truss) could increase spans to up to 30 metres. The introduction of steel in the 20’s and 30”s meant hangars could be built considerably larger, due to innovative lighter structures and wider spans. The most infamous of these rigid-type steel hangars was Hangar 1 at Lakehurst, in New Jersey typical for this type, unfortunately also the location of the Hindenburg disaster.
The increase in innovation through the design of trusses, space frames and gridshells meant wider spans could be achieved with less materials and in many cases easily mountable and demountable. From as early as the 1930's transportable hangars were developed that could be erected and dismantled in short periods, increasing in sophistication over time.
In the late 1900's fabric covered or tensile clad hangars were also built, of which the Aerium hangar (CargoLifter AG) in Berlin is probably the best example, with a central section covered in translucent cushions. It is also currently the largest hangar in existence being 360 metres long, 215 metres wide and 106 m high, that is large enough to fit the entire Eiffel tower within the structure, lying on its side.
- The Aerium Hangar in Brandenburg, Germany was built 1990s to house both the production and storage of the CL 160, Cargolifter airship. The company went bankrupt and the ship was never built. The 259,537 m2 space has been an indoor swimming leisure park called Tropical Islands for the last 15 years.
- Hangar 375, known as Big Texas, is seen as the largest free-standing and active aircraft hangar at 182,880 m2.
- Aircraft Hangar One in California, once housed the airship U.S.S. Macon. It opened in 1933 with a floor space of nearly 106,680 m2. In 2021 a restoration project started with a view to binging it back in use.
- Hangar B at the Naval Air Station in Oregon, is notable as it is one of the largest clear-span wood structures at 96,621m2 and is currently used as part of the Tillamook Air Museum.
- The Lockheed Air Terminal in California is 49,787 m2 and has been used since WWII. It is part of Burbank Airport also known as Bob Hope Airport.
- The Spruce Goose Dome at Long Beach, California, is a 22,860m2 wooden construction. It was built for a WWII large wing span plane that was never built, the H-4 Hercules. It is used as an event and function space for a local hotel.
- Aircraft Hangar-7 was built in Salzburg, Austria in the 1990s to house prized and rare planes. it is also home to a Michelin start restaurant and is 21,894 m2 in size.
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