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Australian Airship Scheme


In July 1924, the Airship Guarantee Company send a detailed proposal to the Secretary of the Australian Government to improve communications between the UK and Australia.

This was followed up in March 1925 by a more detailed proposal titled the Australian Airship Scheme. The Airship Guarantee Company was a subsidiary of the aircraft and submarine manufacturer Vickers, and had been set up for the British Government to explore the possibility of using airships for international travel. The company had been contracted to build the R.100 at a fixed price.

The Document

The Australian Airship Scheme document text has been reproduced as follows:

Due to the very extensive researches which we have been carrying out in connection with the airship which we are now constructing for the British Government, certain advances have recently been made which render this type of vessel even more suitable for both Naval and commercial purposes than we indicated in our former letter on this subject.In the original scheme, the airships which are proposed should be employed on the Australian Route were capable of flying a non-stop distance of 2,500 miles at a full speed of 70 miles an hour carrying 120 passengers and 12 tons of luggage, mail and freight. As was then shown, with a ship of this performance, the route to Australia had been divided into the following sections:-

      1. London - Ismaila

      2. Ismailia - Bombay

      3. Bombay - Singapore

      4. Singapore- Perth

        Distance 10,200 miles

Due to improved efficiency which we have attained as a result of our recent investigations, the maximum speed of the airship, as determined by wind tunnel experiments carried out for us by the National Physical Laboratory is now 90 miles an hour, an advance which has been made, without any sacrifice of, but rather with an increase in passenger capacity.




As a result of this improvement longer non-stop flight can be made with the consequence that the following more direct route to Australia can now be employed:-

    1. London- Bagdad

    2. Bagdad - Columbo

    3. Columbo - Perth

      Distance 9,110 miles

      thus, not only is the total distance to be flown reduced, but also the capital and maintenance costs of one mooring mast station are eliminated. The improvements which have made the above a route practical proposition are in the main two following:-


          1. Reduction of the number of engine cars from seven to four. This reduces the head resistance of the ship, while, by using larger engine units, the total power is increased to 4,400 H.P.

          2. Placing the Control Room of the airship in the bow of the vessel. This eliminates resistance a point where it's presence would by subjectional.


      To appreciate these improvements at a glance, it is but necessary to examine the Air Ministry's design for an airship of the same volume, namely 5,000,000 cubic feet, and then compare this with our final design.


      Fig. 1 shows the Air Ministry vessel with is seven cars, (three on either side and one in the centre line aft) and control and passenger quarters protruding from the streamline form of the hull;

      Fig II is a reproduction from a drawing illustrating the final form of this Company's ship; there are but four engine cars, (two on either side) while the head resistance of the control and passenger quarters has been entirely eliminated by and arrangement which can be seen in greater detail in Fig III.

      Interpreted Possible Routemap from Cardington to Perth (click to enlarge)
Fig 1 The Air Ministry design of a 5.000.000 cubic foot airship, showing external passenger and control accommodation and position of engine cars (7 in all)
Fig II. The Airship Guarantee Company's design of a 5,000,000 cubic foot airship showing internal passenger and control accommodation and position of engine cars (4 in all)
Fig III The control and passenger accommodation of the Company's airship


In view of the fact that with two of the engine, that is to say with one half of the available power, the air speed of the Company's vessel will be slightly over 70 miles an hour, it is proposed that since in the commercial operation of a means of transportation, time tables should be based on the assumption that the hourly distance is made good, will be 70 land miles thus, on this basis, the time for the different section of the proposed route will be :-

London - Bagdad 37 hours (1.5 days)

Bagdad - Columbo 41 hours (1.7 days)

Columbo - Perth 31 hours (1.3 days)

(Total approximate flying time 4.5 days)

or allowing for gassing, fuelling etc., at the stopping places less than 7 days for a journey which now takes about four times as long.

In part the better performance of the airship is due to an improvement in the type of naval mooring mast which was described in our previous communication, for because of the modifications which have been made in this, not only has the new airship control car position been rendered possible, but also the actual process of mooring has undergone further simplification.

In conclusion should there be any other points either of a technical or financial nature with regard to which you would like to have further information, we trust you will be good enough to let us know when we shall be only too pleased to let you have any further details which, for fear of making this communication too protracted we have now omitted.

We have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient Servants,




What is interesting is that this proposal shows with the proposed design, improvements made to the then un-named R100 design, incorporating the passenger accommodation within the ship, improving the efficiency of the engines, and thus reducing the number, meant that the Airship Guarantee team were confident that they could extend the range of the ship.

This would mean the ship would only require three and not four stops to get to Australia, and reducing overall costs associated with additional mast sites and re-gassing, and refuelling facilities.

It is interesting that the original R101 proposal was shown as a concept with an external passenger car as similar to the design of the R36 from 1921. In the end, both the R100 and R101 would evolve their designs incorporate the passenger accommodation in the hull of the ship to improve aerodynamics.

Bomb Sight

What is interesting on the proposed R100 concept is the inclusion of a lower lookout position with bomb sight. It shows that in 1925 the thought of war was still on the designers minds with regards to airships.

Related ships: R100 R 36

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