Andy Lester thrilled residents by bringing a dirigible to Stuart in 1930
Alice L. and Greg E. Luckhardt, a member of the Treasure Coast community. This story is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with this site.

Originally published 07:39 a.m., January 8, 2012
Updated 07:39 a.m., January 8, 2012

STUART — The zeppelin (blimp) known as ‘The Defender’ came to Stuart in February 1930, providing an exciting, unusual and unforgettable adventure for many of the small town’s residents. The publicized attraction was truly a big event for Stuart at the time.

Well-known and popular businessman, Andy Lester, Jr., the owner of Lester’s Tire Service of Stuart and Hobe Sound, arranged for the Goodyear Company of Ohio to have its newest dirigible make a stop in Stuart. Lester, who had been recognized by the company as an outstanding tire salesman, decided to have a big party for the event, providing refreshments and offering free rides in the airship for city officials, friends and customers.

With perfect weather conditions, ‘The Defender’ arrived in Stuart the morning of Feb. 14, from its hanger at Opa-Locka. The crew had decided not to land at Krueger Airport as planned, the ground there being too soft, but instead in a large field formerly used by Carroll Dunscombe for pineapple growing, a mile east of the Stuart airport.

Andy was the host for the large crowd which greeted the zeppelin. There were approximately four trips an hour, each covering several miles and carrying six to eight passengers plus crew, provided wondrous aerial views of the city and surrounding terrain.

Aboard for the first air voyage were Mayor Harry Dyer, City Manager Curd Schroeder, Commissioner E. J. Ricou, Bert Krueger, Charles Rue, Edward Mapp, J. A. Aigler and news reporter, M. F. Wamsley. By the end of the day, more than 100 people had been fortunate enough to be carried aloft by the lighter than air craft.

‘The Defender’ measuring 183 +/- feet long, approximately 47 +/- feet in diameter and containing 178,000 cubic feet of helium, the non-inflammable lifting gas, was first launched in 1929 and christened by Amelia Earhart. It was the first airship with a lighted neon sign along its side.

Before its arrival in Stuart, it had thrilled crowds in Miami and St. Petersburg. In the early 1930s, it flew over the Rose Bowl during big games and in 1932 over the Olympics which were held in Los Angeles. The airship was purchased by the U. S. Navy in 1935 and served until a collision with another airship in June 1942 when it was destroyed.

This story is contributed by a member of the Treasure Coast community and is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with this site.