It was in early 1972
that a company by the name, Mercantile Airship Transportation
Limited ( MAST ) formed for the development of large rigid
airships. Major M.W. Wren was the Managing Director. In
Limited ( TSL ) formed in the Isle of Man and acquired MAST
in early 1979. Major M.W. Wren was the Chairman and Chief
Executive. As a Public Limited Company it raised £2.4
million on the London Stock Exchange towards the development
of an unconventional rigid airship.
The company had been
looking at a series of design concepts, one being the design
concept of lenticular airship design (dubbed flying saucers)
which included the proposal of using heating of the lifting
gas to control buoyancy. The idea that there was a place
for airships to fulfill a transportation gap between fast
jet air transport, and slower sea transportation. It was
then that Malcolm Wren and Roger Munk, realised the value
in joining forces, as Munks Airship Developments had already
proved the concept of smaller airships with the AD 500.
The resulting merger of took place a year later on 29th
May 1980, with Thermo Skyships purchasing the company for
£1 million. The merger saw the prospect of putting
both a large rigid and a smaller non rigid design airship
in to production.
The resulting merger,
in July 1980, Thermo Skyships name was changed to Airship
Industries Ltd.(AI). During the approximately two-and-a-half
years the Thermo-Skyships team spent at AI, it proposed
several abortive designs, for non-lenticular rigid airships.
Much money had already been put in to the Thermo Skyship
company and it had grown to a 30 strong design team. The
idea being that the non-rigids AI designed ships would provide
an income to build the larger and now ellipse shaped 100
seat passenger ferry airship for intercity use. However
it soon became clear that the two airship projects could
not share the same design lines and concepts.
A de-merger from Airship
Industries in the 1982 saw the split away from the group
of a smaller company headed up by Major Malcolm Wren, and
the creation of Wren Skyships Ltd. the reason for this was
due to the different design approaches for airships undertaken
by both organisations and the structural design question
of airships. Wren Skyships Limited was formed from key members
of the rigid division of AIL and began operating with Major
M.W. Wren as Chairman and Chief Executive, P.W.C. Monk as
Technical Director and J.A. Dean as Chief Accountant. It
took over the Isle of Man premises of AIL and had two subsidiary
a) American Skyship Industries Inc., formed in July 1982
and based at Lansdowne Airport, Ohio.
b) New Zealand Airships Limited
Original project ideas
from the company, such are the R.30, which was a 1.1 million
cubic feet airship, as a design response to the US Coastguard
requirements during the U.S. President Jimmy Carter administration.
The hull would be of aluminum alloy,Alelad 2024-T3 with
a thickness range of .010 to .025 in. Supported by 24 longitudinal
and 14 ring frames two of which would be heavy duty to support
engines and loads. It would not have individual gas cell,
the metal hull covering being itself the gas container for
simplicity and weight saving.
On operating and flight
costs, the R.30 as a cargo carrier was claimed to be superior
to a Boeing 737 aeroplane for ranges up to 600-700 miles,
while an early 1980's study of a passenger version between
Paris and London city centres at 45 minute intervals using
(using 6 airships), showed taking 30% of the existing traffic
and making 40% profit after allowing £10m each for
the two city centre terminals.
Studies were also made
of the R.30 in a naval role, usually regarded as a non-rigid
reserve. The view that non-rigids are cheaper to produce
than rigids and were starting to prove themselves at the
time. Another advantage of a non-rigid airship was that
they could be manufactured and assembled in different places
removing a possible constraint of the need for hangar space.
The idea of a "metalclad" airship was to improve
on the concepts gained by by the US Navy with their non
The Chief Designer, Mr Pat Monk, (not to be confused with
Roger Munk of Airship Industries) joined the company in
1980 from New Zealand Aerospace, and the Wren Skyships Design
team, engaged in designing a sophisticated, metal clad airship,
In 1982, the R.30 concept
was later redesigned as the RS.1 and was to be 420ft long
with a maximum diameter of 83.25 feet. Two balloonets would
give it a pressure height of 5,000 ft, and hold a 1,592,000
cubic ft of gas. The RS.1 would be powered by 4 Airesearch
TPE 331-15 turboprops. The design speed at flying at 5,00ft
would be 149.3 mph, or at sea level cruising with 3 of the
4 engines at 121 mph. The gondola would be be able to carry
out as a multi configurable layout, being some 120ft long
and 17ft wide.
At the time the RS.1
was designed as much larger than the Airship Industries
Skyship 600, it's contemporary non rigid ship, and similar
in concept to the successful US Navy type ZMC2. In 1987,
the concept RS.1 proposed as a 25 tonne payload ship for
surveillance, search and rescue,resource development and
The RS.1 concept had a very interesting vectored thrust
control, with the power unit being housed in the stub of
a short stub wing, which would turn through 180 degrees
to assist with control on takeoff and landings. As the stub
wing could only rotate through 180 degrees in the forward,
up or down position, it was designed with a "bow thruster"
in the nose of the ship which would provide more control
of the airship.
The tail configuration
was decided as the X fin for more control.
Multi Role Configuration
A number of configurations
were proposed for the RS.1 and these included:
an ingenious "roll on roll off" configuration
consisting of "clam shell doors" both forward
and aft. The vehicles would access via a ground based ramp,
and then be parked in on the vehicle deck. The passengers
would then move to the seating area, consiting of 80 seats,
positioned 40 per side of the gondola. There would be toliet
and galley provisions available. In this configuration the
flight deck would be separated and be re-positioned above
the front accommodation access doors.
as a long
range and endurance patrol craft co-operating with regular
Naval and Military forces. The gondola would carry a an
all weather seaboat tender for direct intervention at sea.
As a search and rescue patrol craft, with the ability to
accommodate 200 survivors. The gondola would have a full
aray of equipment for a full maritime patrol crew. The gondoal
would be able to lauch a boat through doors on the floor
of the rear boatbay compartment. At the rear end of the
gondola would be a large rear observers position.
would be a full seated passenger only configuration
with 180, 148 economy seats of which 32 would be assigned
as a spacious first class cabin with larger seats. Simliar
to a plane, there would be overhead storeage lockers and
also the rear of the cabin was assigned as a baggage storeage
area. Additional passenger configuration layouts with a
bar and viewing area were posible
Many other possible
configurations were shown in concept art of the day with:
- Medical configuration
- Ship to shore cargo
- Remote freight delivery
As with later techincal
studies, it is uncertain how successful these later options
would have been with the ballast and transfer of weight
options and controls.
Skyships becomes Advanced Airship Corporation (AAC)
At a board meeting on
16th September 1987, Major Malcolm Wren stepped down as
executive chairman from the board due to health issues,
and Brigadier John Hooper was appointed to as Chief Executive
of the company. In 1987, Wren Skyships Limited was then
reorganised and became the Advanced Airship Corporation
(AAC) which was formally incorporated in February 1988.
The RS.1 concept and project was finally cancelled.
Skyships in Fiction
The story of the later
RS.1 airshp, and a fictional character named "Major
Malcom Wren" was captured in the 1984 novel by John
Gordon Davies called "Seize the Reckless Wind",
and follows the adventures of a man building a new airship
named the "Rainbow" at Cardington, along the lines
of the RS.1 airship, and ensuing adventures and daring rescue.