Airship R101 over Hinckley

The Airship R101's endurance trial voyage that would take it over Hinckley in Leicestershire in 1930

Airship R101 over Hinckley
Airship R101 over Hinckely - October 1930

The R101 Airship was seen as a pure luxury floating hotel, the only thing comparable at the time were the Ocean Liners. The Airships R100 and R101 were the first to adopt the style of using the interior of the ship for the passenger accommodation. R101 the larger of the two Airships could boast 2 decks of space, a dining room which could seat 60 people at a time and a smoking room which could seat 20. The promenades showed off the view to the fullest advantage.

1929 The R101 was one of a pair of British Airships that were built by the Royal Airship Works and designed by Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent C.Richmond. R101 was at the time the largest Airship ever built in the world, until seven years later when the German Hindenburg was built. Part of the programme included building the mooring mast and Airship hangers at Cardington in Bedfordshire.

11th July 1929 The lengthy process of inflating the R101's gasbags began.

21st September 1929 The process of inflating of the gasbags was complete with the Airship now airborne and loosely tethered within the hanger ready for trials.

12th October 1929 R101 was walked out by a ground-handling party of 400, a huge number of people went to see the Airship.

14th October 1929 First flight of R101 was made was made to London and back to Cardington which took 5 hours 40 minutes.

A short film of the Airship R101 c.1929

18th October 1929 Flight No.2 was made which amongst the passengers included Lord Christopher Thompson who was the Air Minister who had initiated the Airship programme. The flight was cut short in the Midlands and returned to the Hanger.

17th November 1929 Flight No.7 which was an endurance trial. This flight left the mast at Cardington at 10:33am which started the Airship on a journey over York, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and then over the Irish Sea to Dublin. The homeward journey to Cardington was via the Midlands at 5:14pm on the following day according to the Airships log. This would be the longest journey R101 would ever make of 1,148 miles.

The Airship would be seen flying over Birmingham and then eventually over Hinckley (Leicestershire) as there are accounts of it passing overhead of the Atkins Brothers factory on Lower Bond Street. Over accounts were that the Airship was seen from Earl Shilton (Leicestershire) while a Carnival was taking place.

The remainder of the year and into the following year R101 would continue more flight trials.

5th October 1930 The fateful event of R101 crashing at Allonne in France happened on route to Karachi in India. The crash resulted in 48 killed of the 54 people on-board, amongst the deceased passengers was Lord Thompson.

The crash of R101 ended British Airship development and the Airship hangers at Cardington became a storage station.


Specification of R101

Crew: 42
Length: 777ft
Diameter: 131ft 4in
Height: 140ft
Volume: 5,509,753 cu ft
Empty weight: 257,395 lb
Useful lift: 55,268 lb
Powerplant: 5 × Beardmore Tornado 8-cylinder inline Diesel (2 reversing) with 16ft two-bladed propellers, 585hp each.
Maximum speed: 71 mph
Cruise speed: 63 mph
Range: 4,000 miles




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