the successes of the R33 and
her sister ship the R34, further
investment in airships was provided and saw the creation of
the R36, R38
and the R80. Airships were now
proving themselves as technically advanced aircraft surpassing
Airship Programme 1924 - 30
In 1924, the Government agreed to establish aerial communication
links with the far corners of the Empire. The decision was made
to construct two entirely new airships to serve air routes to
Montreal, Canada, and Karachi, India, with the final view to
have a ship to reach Australia. A plan was also made that the
ships could be of a military value to have the ability to carry
some 200 troops or 5 aeroplanes. Whoever it was deemed that
a ship of some 8,000,000 cft would be required. However it was
agreed to continue with the non military version of the ships.
The original plans by 1926 were to have routes from Canada to
Australia with a regular connecting service and stops en route.
The original specification lead to a plan for 6 airships to
cover this service and a series of airship bases along the way.
The following link will show a map of the routes and prospective
airship stations which would be covered by the scheme.
Routes - as taken from the Imperial conference on the Future
of Aerial Communications 1926
(This is a large map and so please be patient
with the download time)
Also from the same document came the specification as to the
setting up of an airship base and what parameter were required
in the ideal location for the station.
Bases - as taken from the Imperial conference on the Future
of Aerial Communications 1926
It has now been disclosed that the South African masthead was
constructed at the same time as that for Montreal and shipped
down to Cape Town. Also a number of farms had been purchased
outside Mombassa and Durban as sites for potential mast sites.
The Airship Guarantee Company, a subsidiary of Vickers, won
the contract to design and build one ship, and the Government
would have her own design team to build the other. These two
design teams decided to move away from the conventional, much
copied Zeppelin designs, and come up with two completely new
prototype ships. It was agreed that the best features from both
ships would be used in the next generation of airship. The Airship
Guarantee Company designed and constructed the now designated
R100 at Howden, Yorkshire,
and the Government sponsored team built the designated R101
at Cardington. Hopes were high for both new ships and nearing
completion, the specification and plans were already being drawn
up for the R102 and R103.
June 1930, the R100 was ready,
and after testing, flew successfully to Montreal, and back. The
R101, after various changes and initial setbacks, was finally
seen to be the shape of things to come. With her lavish interiors,
sleeping berths, lounge, smoking room and promenade decks, her
comfort was comparable to that of an ocean liner.
initial test flights, by October 1930, she was ready to leave
for India and the Imperial Conference. With the Secretary of State
for Air, Lord Thompson of Cardington and most of the design team,
she left on the night of 4th October. It was at 2.09am on the
morning of the 5th that the R101 struck the ground near Beauvais,
project was reviewed following the loss of the R101 as most of
the design team, the leading government sponsor, Lord Thompson
of Cardington, and some of the most experienced airship crews
died in the crash.
Future - as at 1930 (R 102, R 103, R 104)
Programme 1931- 33
new ships being tested, plans were underway for the design concepts
of the new class of Airships. Funding had been agreed and the
design specifications drawn up. The budgets and plans had been
agreed up to 1935 and included the refurbishment of the R33 and
R36 for future testing, the R36 was to go Egypt to be tested in
tropical climates. The R 102, R103 and R104 had been planned and
the concept specifications showed that they would carry up to
At Cardington the design team had already started plans for the
next generation. The R102 was to have a volume of 8,300,000 cubic
feet which would have made it comparable to the LZ129 "Hindenburg"
which was completed some 6 years later.
"Project H" (R102) had been agreed in the August of
1930, with a capacity some 36% larger than the lengthened R101
was to be built at Cardington. It was to be powered by 7 improved
Discussions during 1929 and 1930 centred on a still larger ship
of 9,500,000 cubic feet capacity - the R103 but not yet designated.
As quoted by Sir Peter Masefield, "This ship would be capable
of regular operations with a non stop travel to Egypt with a substantial
payload. The ship would then move on with stops at Karachi, Rangoon
and Singapore to Australia. It was expected to reach westwards
to Montreal non stop in all weathers".
However is was agreed that Project H (R102) could carry out the
same duties being a smaller ship, if additional masts were built
for refuelling. Plans and land surveys were carried out at Malta
and Baghdad on the India route, and at Monkton, New Brunswick
on the Canadian route.
plans also included the lengthening of the Cardington sheds, and
the building of one new shed capable of accommodating two ships
side by side. An additional mast would also have to be built so
that the R100 and R101 could run and operate services concurrently.
This would also be backed up by a mobile transporter tower and
supported by a second transporter tower at the Karachi base with
it's own shed and mooring mast. Recent research has confirmed
that some 3 farms near Cape Town in South Africa had already been
purchased by the Air Ministry with the intention to turn it in
to an airfield with it's own mooring mast.
Dimensions of the new R102 :
semi external car 147ft
reversible Tornado engines
Wing cars and three aft cars with two engines in tandem
(tractor and pusher)
plans for the future years were as follows :
fare was to be £150, being comparable with that charged by Imperial
Airways on its London to Delhi route.
It was also agreed and plans were underway, that the tickets
would be issued in agreement with a commercial travel agent
to undertake the passenger administration and distribution of