plans for the R101 were laid down as far back as 1924 when the
Imperial Airship Scheme was proposed. The requirements included
that a ship was proposed to take some 200 troops for the military
or 5 fighter craft as an aerial aircraft carrier. It was noted
that a larger ship of some 8 million cubic feet would be required,
however, for initial plans, two prototype ships of 5 million cft
were to be constructed. It was decided that to promote innovation,
one ship would be contracted out to a private company and the
other would be built at the Royal Airship Works in Cardington.
The first ship, the R100, was built by a subsidiary of Vickers,
the Airship Guarantee Company, at the shed at Howden in Yorkshire.
The second prototype ship, the R101, again moved away from traditional
lines of design. After some delays with the initial project the
scheme soon got underway when work on the ship began in 1926.
The ship was to have many innovative design features and incorporating
these within the ship was to cause some delay to the original
completion date of 1927. However, it must be remembered that this
project was the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the world
at that time. The previous largest ship was the Graf Zeppelin,
and that was based on the original design of the "LZ126"
Los Angles, a much smaller ship than was being constructed in
on her maiden voyage 1929
- photo copyright Roger Davis taken by his father in Enfield,
completion in October 1929, the ship was the largest man made
object ever to fly. Following her initial trials, it was discovered
that the original disposable lift was not as high as had been
anticipated. It was agreed that the ship would need more disposable
lift if it was to be a commercial success. The bracing wires holding
the gas cells were let out so that the overall volume and lifting
capacity could be increased.
After more trials, it was decided that more drastic action would
be required to enhance the overall lift of the airship. During
the winter of 1929 to 1930, the airship was brought in to the
hangers and was then cut in half! This meant that an extra bay
for another gas bag could be inserted to give R101 more lift.
This brought her volume up to a huge five and a half million cubic
feet (see the R101c column in the statistics table).
a visit to Cardington in the Graf Zeppelin, Hugo Eckener was given
a tour of the new ship and agreed that the R101 heralded a new
breed of exceptional ship. There was confidence in this new prototype
which would lead to bigger ships, as planned in the R102 and R103.
HMA R101 Schedule to Karachi:
(approx. due to local conditions)
Sunset 28th September
Sunset 29th September
Sunrise 1st October
(approx. due to local conditions)
Sunset 5th October
Sunset 8th October
Sunrise 9th October
Sunset 11th October
15 days round trip Outward: 5 days
Stop Over: 4 days
Return: 6 Days
comparison, the existing Imperial Airways service took 8 days
ONE WAY and had 21 stops en route. By Liner, the quickest sea
route took 4 weeks.
Flight Route :
The first leg of the final flight route as planned by Atherstone
was confirmed as follows :-
- London - Kent - leave cost over Hastings - North Paris - West
to Rhone Valley - Toulouse - over the sea at Narbonne - across
Mediterranean - Malta - Ismalia (Egypt)
1930 a passenger was so confident in the proposed service that
he had sent the Royal Airship Works £20,000 for one airship
passage to New York in 1931. It was thought that the two ships
could earn useful revenue over 1931-1932 with commercial operations.
Even though the R101 was often said to be flying too low compared
to the earlier Zeppelins, which had reached some 20,000 feet
altitude during the war, it was advised that all commercial
(non military airships) had to fly long range and to do this
had to fly at a low level, hence the ships were designed for
this. The best economical results were if a ship could maintain
a height of 1,500feet. This was not only financially advantageous
but would also "afford splendid views of the ground and
sea". The Zeppelin Company had to adopt this policy with
the LZ129 - Hindenburg, which would keep between 1,500 and 4,000
R101 was seen as a lavish floating hotel. Even by today's standards,
the open promenades and public spaces would be seen as unique
in the skies. These large British ships were the first to adopt
the style of using the interior of the ship for the passenger
accommodation. The only contemporary ship which was running
a passenger service was the German Zeppelin ZL127 - Graf Zeppelin.
Even then the ship could only accommodate 20 passengers who
were situated in a stretched forward gondola beneath the hull
of the ship. The utilisation of interior space within the R100
and R101 was a first of its kind and the R101 could boast 2
decks of space, a dinning 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. Compared to the
noisy smelly and tiring journey in an aeroplane, the airships
were seen as pure luxury, with service comparable to that of
the greatest ocean liners. For more information to see life
on board, view our interiors
Times and Dining:
meals for passengers and Officers were to be taken in the Dining
room which could seat up to 60 people. It was not known what
would have been eaten en route but a recent discovery of an
R101 Menu (unfortunalty undated) and a wine list from 6th November
1929. It is suspected that the menu was from the visit by 50
MP's on November 23rd 1929. It gives an idea of the menu available.
It is also interesting to noted that the "smoking room"
is referred to the "smoke room".
Even though weight was the biggest issue with airships, crew and
passengers could take up to 30lbs of kit/baggage as an allowance.
On the R101's final flight the baggage and kit of some 54 people
had an average weight of baggage per person of 22lbs.
of the items included:
Cask of Ale - 70lbs
Carpet Roll - 129lbs (flown over for the state dinners at Karachi
Two cases of Champagne - 52lbs.
Watch data :
were run along the lines of maritime service with ship watches
set on similar lines to their naval partners. The watches were
split in duration as 4 hours for a "day" watch and reduced
to 3 hours for a "night" watch: