A collection of staff left London consisting of GP Cpt Fellowes
(Director of Airship Development) Mr M A Giblett (Superintendent
of Airship Meteorological Work) and Fl Lt S Nixon, attended
a meeting of the South African Civil Air Board in the Post
Master General Office in Cape Town on Monday 4th April 1927.
They advised the board of the specifications for mooring
masts, weather research, wireless requirements and logistics
for airships ,including methods of production of hydrogen.
proposed visit by an airship was scheduled for late 1928
to early 1929. The recommendations stipulated that the bases
should be at sea level due to the fact that each 1000 feet
of altitude reduced the lifting capacity of an airship by
one 30th. Hence with this stipulation, Cape Town was selected
as one of the South African bases. Durban being the other
possibility for mooring sites.
Cape Town City Council, realising the economic and prestige
advantages of the proposed base , resolved to give the venture
their full support. A site was identified in the Maitland
- Goodwood area that met the requirements of space, proximity
to the city yet sufficiently removed from any mountain or
other obstructions. Today the site is the militarty Ysterplaat
Airfield, close to the city centre.
- Brooklyn - Ysterplaat.
as early as 1929, the site of Ysterplaat Airforce Base was
being used as a civilian airfield, orignially named as Maitland
Aerodrome. African Air Transport (AAT) opened at Maitland
in 1938, and was involved in training pilots for the Union
Air Training Group's pupil pilot training scheme. AAT moved
to Tempe at the start of World War II and Maitland was taken
over by the South Africa Airforce (SAAF). On October 24,
1941, Air Force Station Brooklyn, as it was then known,
opened as a SAAF unit. Activities on Brooklyn scaled down
so much that the airfield was nearly presented to the private
sector. In 1946, the first jet aircraft to reach South Africa,
a Gloster Meteor III, was assembled and flown at Brooklyn.
On the 1st April 1949 Air Force Station Brooklyn was renamed
Air Force Station Ysterplaat.
Town: Views from Table Mountain of Ysterplaat Airfield
site today, not to be confused with Cape Town International
Airport and Zeppelin NT in Cape Town, Photo courtesy
of Chris Scott showing how it "may" have been
plans did not come to fruition with the construction of
a mast due to the crash of the R101 and the cancellation
of the Imperial Airship Scheme. However the area which the
airship base was to be sited was in fact utilised later
on as an air base.
Babcock and Wilcox Ltd were the main contractors for the
mast head machinery. They had already produced the mooring
machinery for the Cardington, Ismaila and Karachi masts
. The second sets of orders were already being placed and
the Montreal and South Africa masts were ordered at the
same time and it is noted that Babcock and Wilcox gave a
2% discount on the mast head prices due the "bulk" order.
The Montreal mast was completed first as it was the Montreal
trip was which deemed to be one of the primary trips for
the demonstration flights of the new airships. This was
delivered to Montreal in August 1928 and so it is expected
that, at that time, the South African mast heard would have
been completed after this date, maybe early 1929.
Whatever happened to the South African masthead was unknown
but however years later a comment was made to a member of
the AHT stating that when posted in Aden during the second
world war, a "airship masthead was seen in storage". How
true this is, we cannot confirm, however it would tie in
with the fact that the Canadian mast had to be constructed
first as it was always agreed as part of the "demonstration"
flights of the 1924 Airship Programme. Therefore if the
first masthead was constructed and delivered in 1928 then
the second mast head would have been constructed and also
forwarded for onward delivery to South Africa. Aden is a
key port for trade on the west coast of Africa. On the 1926
proposal map, both Cape Town and Durban are noted, however
on a later edition map, presumed to be end of 1930 shows
both Durban and Cape Town to be proposed Airship bases with
masts and sheds facilities.
the Durban area it was known that a series of farms were
purchased for the proposed mast site and landing area for
airships. The exact location of these farms is still being
investigated by the AHT.