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R101 - G - FAAW

Ship Plan
Interior Details
Flight Log
Crew List
India Flight Press Information
R101 Crash Page
R101 (a)
R101 (b)
R101 (c)
4, 893, 740cft
4, 998, 501cft
5, 509, 753cft

The 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 Britain.

R101 on her maiden voyage 1929
- photo copyright Roger Davis taken by his father in Enfield, London

On 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).

On 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.

Original HMA R101 Schedule to Karachi:

Times (approx. due to local conditions)
Depart Cardington
Midnight 26th September
Arrive Ismalia
after Sunset 28th September
Depart Ismalia
after Sunset 29th September
Arrive Karachi
before Sunrise 1st October

Times (approx. due to local conditions)
Depart Karachi
After Sunset 5th October
Arrive Ismalia
After Sunset 8th October
Depart Ismalia
Before Sunrise 9th October
Arrive Cardington
After Sunset 11th October

Duration: 15 days round trip
Outward: 5 days
Stop Over: 4 days
Return: 6 Days

By 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.

Final Flight Route :

The first leg of the final flight route as planned by Atherstone was confirmed as follows :-

Bedford - London - Kent - leave cost over Hastings - North Paris - West to Rhone Valley - Toulouse - over the sea at Narbonne - across Mediterranean - Malta - Ismalia (Egypt)

Imperial Route Map

In 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 feet.

Life on Board:

The 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 page

Meal Times and Dining:

All 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".

  R101 Menu      
  R101 Wine List      

Passengers and Officers
Crew Meal Times
07.30am - 09.30am
07.20am - 08.30 am
11.30am - 13.00pm
11.20am - 12.30 pm
Afternoon Tea
15.30pm - 16.30pm
15.30pm - 16.30 pm
19.30pm - 20.30pm
19.30pm - 20.30 pm





Baggage/ Cargo :

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.

Some of the items included:
Cask of Ale - 70lbs
Carpet Roll - 129lbs (flown over for the state dinners at Karachi and Ismalia)
Two cases of Champagne - 52lbs.

Crew Watch data :

Airships 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:

Watch Name
Forenoon Watch
08.00am - 12.00pm
Afternoon Watch
12.00pm - 16.00pm
Evening (Dog) Watch
16.00pm - 20.00pm
1st Night Watch
20.00pm - 23.00pm
Middle Watch
23.00pm - 02.00am
1st Morning Watch
02.00am - 05.00am
2nd Morning Watch
05.00am - 08.00am


Related ships: R100 R101 Crash Page

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