Kingdom - Royal Aircraft Factory and RNAS Farnborough
"Beta Shed" 300ft long, 82ft wide 72ft
Shed - 324ft Long 60ft wide 75ft high
Portable Shed canvas covered 250ft long, 50ft wide,
and 60ft high
"C" Shed steel frame, 350ft long, 100ft
wide, 60ft high.
south west of the capital, Farnborough was already the home
of army flying with the siting of the Farnborough Balloon
Factory. The site was later renamed the Royal Aircraft Factory
from May 1912.
The first military airship named Nulli Secundus ("Second
to None") was taking shape as early as 1905, in the
first airship shed which was completed in the same year.
The ship was not ready to fly for another two years, with
it's inaugural flight on 10th September 1907. The first
flight was launched from Farnborough common, not far from
the Military Balloon Factory.
However, the flight which was planned to be over the capital
was short-lived, as the airship was forced to land at Crystal
Palace, which was an impressive 30 miles from Farnborough
and only 3 miles short of central London. The ship was forced
down by strong winds, where it was seriously damaged by
the wind. The ship was later taken back to Farnborough,
to be rebuilt, and humorously renamed "Nulli Secundus
II" (Second to None, the second!).
more ships, the "Baby", a smaller sized non rigid
airship, named after it's smaller size, took to the skies
in 11th May 1909. The ship performed poorly, and was rebuilt
with a larger envelope. It was renamed "Beta"
and in June 1910, undertook a successful night flight over
the capital. Again in 1910, Beta took part in Army exercises
and during this time, during one of it's flights, it stayed
aloft for almost eight hours.
Framework of the Portable shed at Farnborough 1911
also was home to the production of the Army's third airship,
Gamma, and like Beta, made it's first successful flight in
financial support from the newspaper, The Morning Post,
which ran a campaign to raise funds to boost the British
airship fleet, enough money was raised for a new shed at
Farnborough. The Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company
of Darlington was employed to build new shed to house the
Lebaudy airship, which was purchased by the Morning Post.
The shed was a steel framed structure with a vaulted roof,
and two bands of glazing to give light. The shed itself
was painted white, which made it very easy for airship crews
to be able to spot from a distance. In the early part of
the 20th century, and with aviation in it's infancy, navigation
was by compass and also line of sight, so a white shed would
have been a marker for the crews to see.
Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company went on to win
the contracts for many more of Britain's airship sheds.
The Lebaudy airship would have easily fitted in the new
Farnborough shed, however the French builders of the airship
omitted to tell the British War Office, that they had increased
the height of the new ship by 10ft in height. On 26th October
1910, the Lebaudy arrived at Farnborough after a non stop
flight from Paris. The handling party was able to haul the
ship down and began maneuvering the ship in to the shed.
In doing so and confusion arose as to the instructions to
the handling party, and the top of the envelope was torn
on the edge of the new building, and the envelope deflated.
Once repaired the ship only made one more flight, when disaster
stuck again on landing. The passengers on board sustained
minor injuries but no fatalities. The Lebaudy never flew
the Beta shed was extended to double it's original length,
and the shed enjoyed a long life right up until the 1960's
when it was finally demoished. A smaller "portable"
shed was erected that year, again the contract going to
the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company. Fifty men
erected a lattice of frames which were completed covered
in heavy canvas sections.
to it's lightness, the shed was vulnerable to adverse weather
conditions. Not long after it was erected, it was agreed
that it should be dismantled and a stronger structure should
be put in it's place. The "C Shed" was erected
on the same ground as the original canvas shed.The portable
canvas shed was re-errected beside the new C Shed.
view of the Farnborough Balloon and aircraft establishment
emphasis moved from balloons to aeroplanes,the Balloon Factory
became the Army Aircraft Factory April 1911.The Royal Flying
Corps was formed on 13th May 1912,and with it,the first
Squadron ,No 1 Sq, was formed.Throughout WW1 the establishment,by
now renamed the Royal Aircraft Factory,produced and repaired
hundreds of aircraft for the Royal Flying Corps.
drew to a close, the factory originated the Inspection Methods
for Aircraft & Accessories and on 1 January 1914, the
Navy and Military Airship Section were amalgamated, the
Admiralty taking over the military airships and equipment
from the Army, signaling the end of the Airship phase at
portable airship shed, covered 1912
through the First World War, in August 1916 the Annual Report
of the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics recorded the work
at Farnborough, with suitable
brevity considering the country was at war as:
i) Full scale research by experiment and observation of
aeroplanes in flight as well as wind-tunnel tests on scale
ii) Aerodynamic tests to streamline wires, demonstrating
that the resistance of Raf-wires, which were
a simple, symmetrical
ellipse, was so little greater than wires of true streamline
form that their universal adoption was recommended.
iii) The design and development of aircraft instruments
and of bomb sight.
iv) The design and development of wireless sets
v) The design and development of variable pitch airscrews
and their testing by means of the newly-constructed 70
vi) Experiments with fabrics and dopes.
vii) Testing of all metals used in aircraft construction.
viii) The design and construction of new experimental
aircraft based upon new knowledge and devices.
ix) Special tests on fuels, oils, magnetos and spark plugs.
Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough. Notice the airship sheds
and also aeroplane works, with aircraft stored outside.
end of the First World War, 1st April 1918 the Royal Flying
Corps became the Royal Air Force,and the Royal Aircraft
Factory was renamed the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE)
to avoid confusion with the Royal Air Force (RAF).This was
the starting point of some 70 years of aircraft research
and experimental work which has made Farnborough world famous.
period from 1914 -18, the Factory had built some 509 aircraft,
some 85% as production aircraft for the RFC, which included
24 Handley Page HP 0/400 bombers in 1918. In comparison,
between 1911 and the end of 1913 the Factory produced only
24 aircraft, all of them experimental, the largest number
being the BE2 type
World War 2, the hard runways, which had been extended several
times,were again extended, and in the 60s the main runway
was added to yet again. The Farnborough site became the
centre for excellence in experimental aircraft and research,
using the high speed wind tunnels and high pressure technologies,
to supersonic levels.
termination of the war brought about a considerable reduction
in commitments, particularly the urgent day-to-day kinds
that characterised the war period. Also the change over
to new policies, such as turbine aero engines and rocket
aircraft and guided weapons, led to a period of policy reorientation.
the site was the of the first Farnborough airshow. The inaugural
show took place on the first week of September 1948,
the next few years, the event grew to become the second
largest airshow of it's kind, only to the Paris airshow.
the Royal Aircraft Establishment had changed its name to
the Royal Aerospace Establishment to reflect the increased
breadth of the research and development that it was undertaking.
On the 1st April 1991 the RAE ceased to exist. The Establishment
was renamed the Defence Research Agency (DRA) and remained
an executive agency of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).
The DRA lasted until 1st April 1995 when it was re-arranged
into DERA (Defence Evaluation and Research Agency)