the Roma dirigible over Norfolk in 1921
Source: Picryl, Italian Airship "Roma" Over Norfolk Virginia
The Air Service became a separate military organization in World War I, no longer part of the Signal Corps. While stationed in Europe during World War I, the Air Service flew balloons but had no dirigibles. That changed soon after the war ended.
In 1919, Langley Field was the home of the United States Army School of Aerial Photographic Reconnaissance. The Air Service stationed two blimps manufactured in America, plus one from England and one from France, there.1
In 1920, Brigadier General William Mitchell used a blimp originally manufactured in France in an exercise to evaluate the role of aircraft in coastal defense. The Zodiac blimp was used to identify ships approaching the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, after which aircraft were dispatched to attack the ships. Later, Mitchell became famous for his demonstrations of how aircraft could sink warships.2
the Zodiac blimp was used in a coastal defense exercise based at Langley Field to demonstrate how aircraft could intercept a hostile navy
Source: Library of Congress, Zodiac
The US Army had purchased the largest semi-rigid dirigible in the world, the Roma, from the Italian government in 1921. The military had planned to purchase the ZR-2 dirigible in England, but that airship had crashed six months earlier.
Though the Roma was designed to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, it was still an experimental craft to the US military. It was packed on a ship for the crossing to Langley Field, now Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
The military quickly determined that new engines were required to power the Roma. The test flight on February 21, 1922 to evaluate the engines was intended to go from Langley Field to Naval Air Station Norfolk. Instead, it ended in disaster when hydrogen leaked and then the box rudder became dislodged.
the Roma dirigible crashed and burned after its box rudder came loose
Source: Picryl, Roma Airship
The crew stopped the motors as the Roma tilted down. When it touched an 2,200 volt electricity wire strung above the ground, the hydrogen exploded and 34 of the 45 passengers were killed. Future dirigibles were tested, but only using helium instead of hydrogen.3
the Roma lost control, hit electricity wires, and burned
Source: Norfolk Public Library (via Wikipedia), Virginia Pilot and Virginia Chronicle, News Leader (February 22, 1922)
The US Navy ended Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) operations in 1962, but restarted in 2011 with one experimental airship to test Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) concepts. In 2013 the US Navy used that one manned blimp, the MZ-3A, to test avionics systems over Northern Virginia:4
the US Navy briefly operated a blimp between 2011-2014, with one flight over Northern Virginia
Source: US Department of Defense, 130403-N-IC228-012
The US Navy cancelled the MZ-3A program in 2014 and sold the blimp in 2017. The Department of Defense has no blimps with humans aboard now.5
Modern blimps carry human pilots and passengers are used for advertising, with the Goodyear blimp being the most famous. No blimps are based in Virginia now. The Goodyear blimp occasionally flies across the state, but its bases are in Ohio, California, and Florida.6
the Goodyear blimp has bases in Ohio, California, and Florida
Source: Goodyear, Visit an Airship Base