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Planned improvements to R.100 & Airship Continuity Programme

It was noted that when the R.100 returned from her Canadian voyage, the ship was under evaluation as part of the on going requirements of the Imperial Airship Scheme. A document has been discovered in the Public Records Office which showed the change of direction from the original requirements of the 1924 and1928 revisions to the Imperial Airship Scheme. The document has an outline of the whole project but particular interest is seen as to the modifications to the R.100.

In August of 1930 it was seen that both the R.100 and R.101 would have by this time offered some way of ascertaining the earning capacity of airships, and also to demonstrate the possibility of a regular airship service. It was deemed that by this time that neither requirements had been met and it was noted that both ships were not capable of doing so. The reasons behind this were that the existing ships did not have suffifient lift to give a fair indication of the possibility of regularity of Airship flying and it's consequent regation on earning capacity.

It was not seen that any progress would be made unless new construction and adaption was made as part of the next programme.

It was hoped that by placing some of the car externally to the ship, then this may have given more room in the gasbag which was immediatly above the passenger accommodation. This would have also allowed more disposable lift suitable for more commercial operations. By removing the large passenger areas and reviewing the use of the R.100, it was seen that the new class of ship, the R102 class be deemed more suitable for carrying the large number of passengers as orignally planned in the R.100 and R.101.

It was also planned that the R102 was also to have some of the passenger accommodation protude from below the main hull, and so this could have been seen as early concepts for part of the planned external smoking lounge for the R102. The passenger capacity of the R102 was deemed to be a realistic 50 passengers and so the potential reduction in cabin numbers and configuration on the revised R.100 would have been realistic in line with the plans as discovered.

Source of data :
Air Minisrty File Note from LGS Reynolds to the Direcort of Airship Development dated 28 August 1930:

"Carry out improvements to R.100 and R.101 such as modifications to passenger accommodation in both ships, fit dieselised condors to R.100 and possibly fit a new bay to the ship"
No details exist regarding the actual plans however the following images were found in the AHT archive relating to a "Scheme C" showing the R.100 with a long external passenger car affixed to the hull behind the existing control car. The location of the control car would have moved forward approximalty 20 feet of it's existing postion on the R.100.
An image showing the interior of the proposed R.100 external cabin space.    
Airship Policy Development and Continuity - 1929    
From a personal statement issued on 13th September 1930 by C Buloch to H C T Dowding shows a very interesting insite in to the state of the Airship Programme which seems to have been largely overlooked by many sources. The document proved to be seen as a snapshot of the situation with regards to the programme moving forward.  

It was seen that the initial phase was the "teething period" for large airship design and construction was largely over and the unforseen difficulties should not arise in the case of the new ships which are to be in the main "scaled up" editions of the R.101.

Plans were not to be submitted at the forthcoming Imperial Conference as it was viewed that at this would be unjust at this date/stage. Understanding that the quote given at the 1926 Imperial Conference had not been met with R.100 and R.101, and also the ships at present cannot operate with useful loads without additional masts at Malta and Baghdad. A prudent course of action as it seemed at this stage the scheme had provided very little of what they said it would in the original conference back in 1926.

What could be released were the plans were which were to look at building some of the new ships in July 1931, the proposed moovable mooring tower would have be delivered by May 1931. The R.100 would have an extra bay fitted.

It was seen that the crux of the commercial operation is the view of reularity of operation before they were to embark on the construction of the new ships

The R.100 Refit

Plans for the R.100 were underway and noted in this documentation. It was stated that it would take "6 months for the outer cover to be put on the ship as the material was not ready to put in the new bay, which would take some 7- 8 months to install. It was urged that this would be done on the recovering of the ship. It would be no more difficult as had been with the R.101".

Both the R.100 and R.101 were planned to be the workhorses of the England - Egypt route, but is was noted that the Malta Mast had to be constructed if both ships were to carry workable loads. A final note planned both ships to carry out occasional flights to the Canadian and Indian provinces to keep thier interests alive and show that airships were part of the communication plans. The R102 and R103 would be suitable for these routes as working airships.

Revenues were considered as a fair income from the ships when operational. Fares charged for the flights were outlined as :-

£ 200 each way to Montreal for the first 18 months
£150 each way to Karachai

It was noted that these figures were not unreasonable whilst airships remained "a novelty". After this time the fairs be reduced to compete with the Imperial Airways charges :-

Proposed fares via Airship Imperial Airways
£150 Montreal (no service)
£ 55 Ismailia £ 49
£ 130 Karachi £ 121

Below is the full specifics of the 1930 programme

Full Details of the Programme issued by G S Reynolds:-

28th August 1930


As promised I now forward the programme of Airship Developement which is recommened as a basis for consideration at the Imperial conference and also and estimate of the cost of the Programme which covers a period of Three years.

The new programme might be looked upon as a Programme of Airship Demonstration Services.

Demonstration Services would appear to be an essential preliminary to Commercial Services financed by Private Enterprise.

In these servces we should have to endeavour to :-

1) Ascertain the earning capactiy of an Airship
2) Demonstrate the possible regularity of Airship Service
3) Obtain some reliable data in regard to perating and maintenance costs.

I do not think we can hope to do either 1 or 2 with the existing ships; they havce not sufficient lift to give a fiar indication of the possible regularityof Airship Flying and it's consequence reaction on earning capacity. I feel therefore we shall not be making any real progress toward Commerical Services unless new construction is included as part of the next programme. Much data in regard to operating and maintenance costs might be obtained with operations of existing ships.

Briefly, the main items of the Programme recommended as as follows :-

First Year

1. Commence construction of one new Airship.

2. Order second mooring tower for Cardington to be completed as soon as possible. Until this Tower is provided the operations of the R.100 and R.101 concurrently must be strictly limited.

3. Order new Shed for Cardington to be completed as soon as possible.

4. Lenghten both No 1 and No 2 Sheds at Cardington

5. Continue experiments with Transporter Tower and Handling Rails.

6. Continue mooring tower experiments.

7. Carry out improvements to R.100 and R.101 such as modifications to passenger accommodation in both ships, fit dieselised Condors to R.100 and possibly a new bay to that ship.

8. Operations with R.100 and R.101 on the Atlantic during the Summer months and on the Egypt route during the Winter months and certain operations and experiements from Karachi. A total of 1,500 hours for the two ships.

9. The selection of sites and the provision of Mooring towers in the Maritime Provinces, Matla and Middle East.

10. Provision of certain additional ground facilities and equipment for operations purposes at Cardington, Ismailia, and Karachi, such as improved ydrogen facilities, accommodation,etc, to be completed by middle of third year.

11. Continue the development of Meterological and Wireless organisation on the Indian and Atlantic routes and commence investigation in to Winter flying conditions on the Atlantic route to Canada.

12. Provision of spares for existing ships.

Second Year

1. New shed to be completed by the middle of this year.

2. Commence assembly of Airship.

3. No2 Mooring tower completed earlier this year.

4. Provision of transporter tower and handling rails for Karachi to be completed by middle of third year.

5. Operations with R.100 and R.101 as in first year, but a total say 3,000 hours flying for the two ships during the year.

Third Year

1.The new ship to be completed in the middle of this year, i.e. 2 1/2 years from the commencement of this programme.

2. Operations with the new ship and existing ships will be again as in previous years, but schedule flights to be attempted.

We have made provision for spares for existing ships on a reasonable liberal basis as far as fabric, engines and miscellaneous replacements are concerned. No provision has been made for engine experiemental work other than prvided for in the spare engines.

It is understood you require some estimate of the cost of Airship Services. As you know from time to time many figures have been worked out, but we really have no data at present on which to form a reliable estimate.

The 7,5000,000 cubic feet ship which we propose should be built, would carry 50 passengers and 5 tons of freight under the worst conditions either on the Indian or Atlantic route provided the additional tower facilites mentioned above are availalbe.

If we assume passenger fares at 150 and a full load, 2 tons of mails at say 10/- per lb, you will see than an airship with this performance shouls be able to earn well over 20,000 on a round trip.

Airships, if they are to pay, will undoubtebly have to fly about 3,000 hours per year and when this amount of flying can be got out of an airshipthe revenue from each ship will clearly be very large.

In regard to possible earnings during this programme I think they might be put at 50,000 for the first year, 75,000 for the second year and say 1,250,000 for the third. when the first new ship will also be in operation.

The earnings from existing ships will clearly depend as to what alterations are made to improve their lift. The amount of flying which they can carry out will, I think, be found to depend largely on the engine question.

If it was decided to beuild two ships at R.A.W. the second to be completed as soon as possible after the first it is considered the second ship could be ready for trials 8 months after the first, or early in the 4th year.

A second new shed would be required at Cardington and would be available by the time the first ship is completed to allow the erection of a second ship to commence immediatly following the completion of the first. As already pointed out, however, the estimates attached are on the basis of one new ship.

The following are figures which have been finally put up to the Secretary and are being put to the Secretary of State in this connection :-

a. Capital works services at RAW and Atlantic and Indian routes £ 740,000
b two new airships and experimental work £ 950,000
c. Flying with R.100 and R.101 and R102 (gas, fuel, oil, rations etc ) crews and operating personnel; improvements to R.100 and R.101 the provision of spares, engines etc for four years £ 700,000
d. Maintenance of base including RAW for four years £ 350,000
Gross total £ 2,740,000
Deduct Normal A in A £ 40,000
Probable earnings £ 450,000
Net total £2,250,000

As you know, the Secreatary has suggested to the Secretary of State that these figures might be increased by 20%. This would make the total about 3,300,000.

It is essential that the new AMSR should have before him in detail the figures leading up to the total given above, and he is taking over on Monday next. You will therefore appreciate the need for urgency.


G S Reynolds.


Sources Public Records office : AIR 5/987

Planned improvements to R.100 and Airship Continuity Programme

Related ships: R.101

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