Previously known as Naval Air Station Lakehurst, the installation is most famous as the site of the Hindenburg disaster on May, 6 1937. Despite the notoriety and well documented nature of this incident, today there is a simple memorial that denotes the location of the crash at then-NAS Lakehurst in the field behind the large airship hangars on base. A ground marker, painted black, and rimmed by a bright yellow painted chain, locates where the gondola of the German zeppelin Hindenburg hit the ground.
Prior to this event, NAS Lakehurst was the center of airship development in the United States and housed three of the U.S. Navy's four rigid airships, (ZR-1) Shenandoah, (ZR-3) Los Angeles, and (ZRS-4) Akron. A number of the airship hangars built to berth these ships still survive. Hangar One, in which the Shenandoah was built, held the record for the largest "single room" in the world. According to an article in the January, 1925 issue of National Geographic Magazine, the airship hangar "could house three Woolworth Buildings lying side by side."
Maxfield Field was named 6 January 1944 in honor of Commander Louis H. Maxfield, Naval Aviator No. 17, who lost his life in the R-38/USN ZR-2 airship crash, 24 August 1921 at Hull, England.
The base housed many Navy non-rigid airships, otherwise knowns as "blimps," in several squadrons before, during, and after World War II. This included the U.S. Navy's ZPG-3W (EZ-1C), which was deactivated in September 1962. In 2006, after a 44 year hiatus, the U.S. Navy resumed airship operations at Lakehurst with the MZ-3A.
The former NAS Lakehurst also hosted the U.S. Navy's first helicopter squadrons, HU-1 (later HC-1) and HU-2 (later HC-2); the "A" and "C" enlisted training schools for the Aerographer's Mate (AG), Aviation Boatswain Mate (AB, ABE, ABF, ABH), and Parachute Rigger / Aircrew Survival Equipmentman (PR) ratings until their transfer to other Naval Air Technical Training Centers; and an Overhaul & Repair (O&R) facility for fixed-wing aircraft, the forerunner of the former Naval Air Rework Facilities and Naval Aviation Depots (NADEPs) now known as Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs).
Today the base is used for various Naval Aviation development programs. NAES Lakehurst's main airfield has two 5,000 foot runways under its own control tower, while a separate 13,000 foot test runway equipped with a separate control tower and pavement-mounted catapults and arresting gear for testing aircraft carrier suitability of new naval aircraft and new flight deck systems is located approximately a mile to the northwest. In the 1950s, rail guided jet donkeys pushing dead loads at 200 knots tested carrier arresting gear cables and tailhooks.
Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst is an activity of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIRSYSCOM) and is part of the Navy Lakehurst / Fort Dix / McGuire AFB Complex.