As big as battleships but weightlessly floating in the sky, rigid airships captivated the public’s attention—as well as that of the U.S. Navy—during the 1930s. They were frequently shown in movie-theater newsreels, and magazines regularly featured articles about them. In 1931 the Empire State Building was completed—the world’s tallest structure—topped by a 200-foot mast intended for mooring airships.
The plan was to disembark passengers via a flexible gangplank on the 102nd floor, and carry them down to the 86th floor by special elevator. But the scheme proved impractical, and the only time the mast was used—other than for a large ape to swat at Navy fighter planes in the 1933 movie King Kong—was when the Navy blimp J-4 made a three-minute mooring contact.