HM Airship R100
was a privately designed and built rigid airship made as part of a two-ship competition to develop new techniques for a projected larger airship for British military use.
The other airship, R101
, was built by the UK Air Ministry. Following the completion of the R101, the R100 followed closely on, being an innovative and modern ship when compared to its counterparts at the time. The daring decision to move way from the more traditional Zeppelin design lines was shown in the more oval, streamlined and aerodynamic shape of both the R100 and R101.
The decision had been made that separate organisations would construct two ships. One would be built by the Royal Airship Works (earning "The Socialist Aiship"
nickname) and the other by a commercial contractor (widely called "The Capitalist Airship"
). The contract for the R100 had been awarded to Vickers, who were regarded as one of the best airship constructors, considering their history with lighter than air craft. A new subsidiary of Vickers, the Airship Guarantee Company, was set up purely for the construction of the ship. It was felt by the government that having two prototypes built would lead to twice the level of innovation over traditional lines. Both the R100 and R101 teams were the first to build airships in a more aerodynamic form than the traditional Zeppelin designs. British designers had always tried to improve the aerodynamic shape to aid efficiency compared to other contemporary ships, the R 80 being the case in point, being the most aerodynamic ship constructed to date.
The ship was designed with only 13 longitudinal girders compared to previous designs of up to 25, and hence the ship was lighter. An initial design problems was that the outer cover would ripple in flight, however this did not affect the performance of the ship. Also, there was a slight problem with the aerodynamic forces acting on the tail. This had shown up on wind tunnel tests but was dismissed as a scale anomaly.
The original tail design was a very sharp tapering point, but the pressures built up and the tip broke off on one test flight. This was later replaced with the more traditional rounded tail.
With the prototype completed the R100 had design features which were to be incorporated within the next generation of ships. The interior passenger space was completely new to airship design and was very different from that which was designed for the R101.
Competition was high between the two design teams but it was still seen that both of these ships were unique prototypes. On a global scale, the Imperial Airship scheme was the largest project of its kind and in 1929 the only competition was from Germany with the smaller LZ127 "Graf Zeppelin"
. Not until the Hindenburg
and Graf Zeppelin II
some seven years later would newly designed commercial passenger airships of this scale take to the skies.
A double staircase led down to the interior dining room. The dining and central space had galleries in which passengers could access the accommodation. Flanked on each side were two large panoramic windows allowing a two tier promenade deck giving the interior a large, open and light feel. The interior was different again from the set up of the R101, the idea being that design details would be taken from each airship and utilised in the next generation. The R100 could carry 100 passengers in a selection of accommodations; an arrangement of 14 two-berth and 18 four-berth cabins were available.
The ship was flown from Howden to her new home at the Royal Airship Works, Cardington. After the trial flights and flights checking the outer cover ripple effect, the ship was tasked with a trip to Canada, successfully crossing the Atlantic to Montreal to the newly erected mast.
The ship slipped the moorings from the Cardington mast at 02.48am on the morning of 29th August 1930. The ship flew over the Atlantic and headed down the Newfoundland coast to Montreal, arriving on 1st August at 05.37am, after a voyage of some 78 hours and 49 minutes; a journey of 3,364 miles. The crew were deemed heroes for this voyage. The crossing was not as smooth as predicted when the ship encountered a rough storm flying towards the Canadian coast, causing a ripping to some of the outer cover. Temporary repairs were made in flight and then the cover was replaced at the mast at Montreal.
The crew enjoyed banquets and receptions in their honor. It was seen that this trip would be the start of many crossings and the start of commercial operations. On 13th August 1930 the R100 was required to go on a "local" flight where it was received excitedly by all the towns she crossed over. On 16th August 1930 R100 made her return to Cardington and, making use of the gulf stream, managed to knock off some 21 hours off the outward bound flight time, arriving on 16th August 1930 at 11.06am after 2,995 miles and a trip of 57hours 56 minutes.
On her return to Cardington she was then put into the shed for inspection and attention switched to the R101's flight to India, which was anticipated to be at the end of the year. Because many of the crew members were actually operating on both ships, the majority were transferred over to the R101.
After R101 crashed and burned in France, en route to India on 5 October 1930, the Air Ministry ordered the R100 grounded. She sat in her hanger for a year whilst three options were considered: a complete refit of R100 and continuation of tests for the eventual construction of R102; static testing of R100 and retention of about 300 staff to keep the programme 'ticking over'; or retention of staff and the scrapping of the airship. In November 1931, it was decided to sell R100 for scrap and the entire framework of the ship was flattened by machinery and sold for less than £600.
Engines: 6 x 650hp
text used, as well as some photographs from Airshipsonline and Wikimedia Commons