The Curtis F9C-2 Sparrowhawk is a very small fighter(nicknamed a parasite fighter) that was constructed in 1930. Although the Sparrowhawk was armed, its primary duty was reconnaissance, and it provided the ships it served with a much wider search area. But wait, what is that ugly structure on the upper wing?
In the movie "The Great Dictator", Napolini (Played by Jack Okie), tells his partner Adenoid Hynkel, The Dictator of Tomania (played by Charlie Chaplin), that Italy has developed a flying battleship. It would have been just as fantastic to have been a flying aircraft carrier
In the early 1930s the United States discovered how large was too large in constructing rigid airships(The Akron crashed in a storm over the Atlantic, the Macon went down in 1935 in a storm over the Pacific).
The Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation constructed the USS Macon in 1933. She was 734 feet long (over 2 1/2 football fields), 134 feet wide and 146 feet tall(that would be a 14 story building). She contained 6,500,000 cubic feet of Helium gas. She carried a crew of up to 91 people, had 8ea, 560hp gas engines, and a hanger bay with five Curtis F9C-2 Sparrowhawks that could be launched and retrieved in flight. Both the Macon and the Akron could fly at 87mph.
To achieve launching and recovery on an airship, a hook/anchor system was developed, dubbed by crews as "the flying trapeze". The Sparrowhawk had a hook mounting on its top wing that attached to the cross-bar of the trapeze. For launching, the biplane's hook was engaged on the trapeze inside the (internal) hangar, the trapeze was lowered clear of the hull into the (moving) airship's slipstream and, engine running, the Sparrowhawk would then disengage its hook and fall away from the airship.
For recovery, the biplane would fly up underneath its mother ship, moving slightly faster than the airship, and in a somewhat tricky maneuver hook onto the trapeze; the width of the trapeze cross-bar allowed a certain lateral lee-way in approach, the biplane's hook mounting had a guide rail to provide some tolerance against relative vertical motion, and engagement of the hook was automatic on positive contact between hook and trapeze. More than one attempt might have to be made before a successful engagement was achieved, for example in gusty conditions. Once the Sparrowhawk was securely caught, its engine could be safely cut and it could then be hoisted by the trapeze back within the airship's hull.
One interesting use of the Sparrowhawks was to act as "flying ballast". The airship could take off with additional ballast or fuel aboard instead of its airplanes. Once the airship was cruising, the aircraft would be flown aboard, the additional weight being supported by dynamic lift until the airship lightened.
In order to increase their scouting range while the airship was on operations, some Sparrowhawks were modified by having their landing gear removed and replaced by a fuel tank. When the airship was returning to base, the biplanes' landing gear would be replaced so that they could land independently again.
In service for less than three years, the USS Macon went down off the coast of Monterray, California.Most of her crew were saved. The wreckage is listed as USS Macon Airship Remains on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.