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Airship Sheds
United Kingdom - Jurby


Country: United Kingdom Location: Jurby - Isle of Man
Location
Facilities
Actual
Proposed
1 Metal Frame Fabric covered shed

Airships:
ANR 1 (incomplete)

RS-1 (Design Concept only)

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 1978: Thermoskyships 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.

Wren Skyships Limited

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.

Wren Skyships based themselves on the Isle of Man, with the understanding that a cost effective link between the UK at Liverpool and the Isle of Man, could be used. Traditionally the island was serviced by small regional airlines, and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Ferry Company, operating a ferry service, to connect Dublin and Liverpool.

Wren Skyships undertook a feasibility study and knew there was a market to ferry workers to and from the Island, from both the United Kingdom and Ireland. From company documentation it was quoted that

"The Isle of Man makes an idea operating base for the initial routes under consideration. Since these will be new routes e.g. Jurby to Preston, route allocation will not present a significant problem".

The concept of the ANR was to fill the role to be a competitive passenger transport on routes up to 80 nautical miles. The concept design was to fill the role and take on airship operations beyond the tourist flight sector which had been established by Airship Industries operations using the Skyship 500 and 600 models, and in to a a regular point to point passenger service. To this end the ANR was designed with a maximum speed of 95 mph compared to a Skyship 500's maximum speed of 67 mph. The ANR was designed to be a competitive passenger transport aircraft over short ranges.


The Chief Designer, Mr. Pat Munk, not to be confused with Roger Monk 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, the RS-1. At the time the RS-1 was much larger than the Airship Industries Skyship 600, and similar in concept to the successful US Navy type ZMC2.


A construction building was required, and the same team produced a design consisting of steel A-frames, and a three pointed arch roof. The configuration of the arch was derived from the form of the airship itself, which had to of it's power plants above the centre line of the hull. Both ends of the shed were designed as apsoidal, and the fixed end with variable louvres to reduce the piston effect when the ship enters or exits the shed. The opening end was designed to provide doors rolling laterally on ground tracks.

 

Documents


The company set up a subsidiary holding in the U.S. named American Skyship Industries, Inc. (ASI) was established as the U.S. manufacturing arm of Wren Skyships, ostensibly for the production of Metalclad airships. ASI was founded by partners, Russell Scoville II, and Major Malcolm W. Wren RE. in 1981. No manufacturing facility, nor any airship, was ever built.

The City of Youngstown sold Lansdowne Airport to American Skyship Industries, Inc. for US$1 – the sale being contingent on construction of manufacturing facilities on the site. The airport was named after the noted American Navy rigid airship pioneer, Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Lansdowne. This sale of Lansdowne airport was met with some local opposition, concerns ranging from airship safety to a large hangar obstructing the view or being an eyesore.

By the summer of 1983, efforts to obtain federal and state funding had stalled. In June of that year, federal officials informed American Skyship Industries Inc. that additional proof of private financing was required before $4.2 million in federal loans and grants could be released. Internal disagreements and failure to raise the required private financing lead to Scoville's departure from the company he had co-founded. Afterward, the company was briefly managed by Michael McL. Foster-Turner. The company's offices were finally closed in the end of 1984.

Advanced Airship Corporation (AAC)

Wren Skyships became the Advanced Airship Corporation (AAC) in 1988. Construction of the prototype ANR 1 was commenced. The ANR 1 was a smaller ship design, and AAC obtained enough funding to commence the project.

At the time contracts were put in place with Clyde Canvas to erected the hangar structure, Parkinson Groundworks to be completed by mid October 1987 and Rovacabin to provide canteen, offices, first aid room, workshops and lavatories.

The steel frame was delivered to the Ramsey, on the Isle on Man aboard the Gustav Trader, one of the largest ships to have entered Ramset harbour for some time. The construction of the smaller shed was commenced at Jurby Aerodrome in March 1988, and erected over the course of the summer. The new shed was a sophisticated, being 25 lightweight lattice steel barrel vault arches, a perfect hemicycle, covered in ultraviolet resistant plastic membrane. The canvas was of a grey with the upper area being white to blend in with the surroundings. This was a a very advanced design for it's time. Both ends of the shed had a belled our formation, to lessen wind resistance. A door opening system is operated by winches which raise the membrane door system between two lattice steel towers. The building was designed and erected by Clyde Canvas Limited. Helium storage was in the form of cylinders stored beside the hanger. The internal offices and design and construction offices were installed in the Rovacabins on the inside of the shed.

Shed Dimensions

Length: 91.3m
Vault Radius: 22.25m
Width 43.5m


Construction was completed by the summer of 1988 officially opened on 14th June, almost exactly 4 months from when the first ceremonial "sod" was cut under much media and press spotlight for the company.

ANR 1 Construction

Construction of the ANR 1 was undertaken in the newly completed shed. In August of 1988, Airborne Industries, the airship and balloon manufacturer delivered the envelope from their Leigh on Sea fabric manufacturing site. By December 1988, the prototype envelope was ready for air inflation tests. The construction of the gondola, engines and tailfins commenced over 1989 and into 1990.

Hangar Storm Damage

It was during a gale force storm on Friday 13th January, 1989, the main fabric door on the hangar torn, and eventually destroyed. The envelope was quickly deflated in order to safeguard the airship. Temporary scaffolding and covering was erected to protect the interior of the hangar. Two months after the storm, on 13th March, the envelope was re-inflated inside the hangar.

Further research and design continued on the prototype ship, and after a pressure tear test, it was decided that a new envelope was required. By November 1989, it was decided that a new a stronger Kevlar PU type material, known as Aramid, was used for the envelope. The envelope would be lighter, stronger and less permeable to helium gas. Due to it's design, would not allow the envelope to stretch change shape, and therefore designed to be similar to that of a metal clad airship such as the US Navy ZMC-2, and the original R30 metalclad design ship. The design team was presented with a difficult choice, to continue with and fit the existing development envelope to the prototype ship, and then replace it with the newer envelope when it was available, or to wait, and fit the new envelope when it was ready.

There were concerns over the serviceability of the existing development fabric for high speed flying, even though the existing enveloped more than adequately fulfilled the FAA requirements for tear strength. It was the company's intention to use the first envelope for early low speed test flying and then replace it with the newer envelope during the test flight programme. However the new kevlar fabric would be made available sooner than originally planned. It was seen than an envelope change would take 2-3 months, and ultimately impose a delay on the production of the ANR No.2 prototype ship.

The new envelope was delivered and the prototype ship gondola and tailfins were attached to it. Due to the weight of the envelope, it was hung from the shed roof and air inflated to keep shape. This added addition time to the construction of the ship, and delayed the ANR 1 further final completion.

New Airship Mast

By August 1989, a mast had been erected on the landing ground outside of the shed. At the top, the receptor, into which a non retractable probe on the carapace of the airship will fit, was designed to be fitted to the top of the new mast. It would be capable of turning 360 degrees enabling the ANR 1 to weathervane whatever the wind direction. The ship would be guided into the receptor cone, by leading a rope attached to the probe, through the receptor and then down the mast tower to a winch drum.

Moving in to the new decade, August 1990 saw the avionics, fuel systems and main pilot controls being manufactured and assembled. Along with the ANR-1 prototype nearly being completed, the work had commenced on ANR-2 with the ribs for the gondola already being fitted to the gondola jig.

Company Collapse

With an oil price shock, the ending of the Cold War, and the considerable drop in defense spending, causing spiraling inflation rates for many countries, the world was plunged in to a deep financial recession. The impact it had on the UK economy was not felt until the winter of 1990 and so plunging the country in to recession in the beginning of 1991. AAC was hampered by liquidity funding problems and work on the ship finally stalled, and in June 1991 the work on the ship, ceased, and most of the staff at the company were made redundant.

By 1993 funding options were no longer available, and unfortunately Advanced Airship Corporation went into liquidation on 1st March 1993. By 27th April 1993, the ANR 1 airship gondola and envelope was sold, to Linstrad Balloons, at Oswestry. The gondola was later again transported
to Aviodrome, Lelystad airport in the Netherlands. Receivers sold the property owned by the company on 27th September 1993.

The same financial recession and liquidation problems also saw the closure of Airship Industries, in September 1990, the same company which AAC grew from.

The shed remained in place and could be seen still at the Jurby Airfield until 2009, when it was later dismantled.

Today

Today the a segment of the composite nose carapace, one fin structure and one ruddervator, and can be seen on show at the Isle of Man Motor Museum, located on the same Jurby Airfield where the AAC were based. Sadly today, all that remains of the hangar at Jurby is the low outer wall, within which is the service area and parking for the nearby go-cart track.


 
Photo Gallery
RS1 Project Shed
Side view of proposed shed.
ANR 1 Shed footings
Door damage following the storm 13th January 1989
August 1989, the nearly completed ANR 1 mast, minus receptor on the top. Notice the hangar behind with temporary repaired door
 
 

 

 

 

 

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