Metal Frame Fabric covered shed
ANR 1 (incomplete)
(Design Concept only)
It was in early 1972
that a company by the name, Mercantile Airship Transportation
Limited ( MAST ) formed for the development of large rigid
airships. Major M.W. Wren was the Managing Director. In
Limited ( TSL ) formed in the Isle of Man and acquired MAST
in early 1979. Major M.W. Wren was the Chairman and Chief
Executive. As a Public Limited Company it raised £2.4
million on the London Stock Exchange towards the development
of an unconventional rigid airship.
The company had been
looking at a series of design concepts, one being the design
concept of lenticular airship design (dubbed flying saucers)
which included the proposal of using heating of the lifting
gas to control buoyancy. The idea that there was a place
for airships to fulfill a transportation gap between fast
jet air transport, and slower sea transportation. It was
then that Malcolm Wren and Roger Munk, realised the value
in joining forces, as Munks Airship Developments had already
proved the concept of smaller airships with the AD 500.
The resulting merger of took place a year later on 29th
May 1980, with Thermo Skyships purchasing the company for
£1 million. The merger saw the prospect of putting
both a large rigid and a smaller non rigid design airship
in to production.
The resulting merger,
in July 1980, Thermo Skyships name was changed to Airship
Industries Ltd.(AI). During the approximately two-and-a-half
years the Thermo-Skyships team spent at AI, it proposed
several abortive designs, for non-lenticular rigid airships.
Much money had already been put in to the Thermo Skyship
company and it had grown to a 30 strong design team. The
idea being that the non-rigids AI designed ships would provide
an income to build the larger and now ellipse shaped 100
seat passenger ferry airship for intercity use. However
it soon became clear that the two airship projects could
not share the same design lines and concepts.
A de-merger from Airship
Industries in the 1982 saw the split away from the group
of a smaller company headed up by Major Malcolm Wren, and
the creation of Wren Skyships Ltd. the reason for this was
due to the different design approaches for airships undertaken
by both organisations and the structural design question
of airships. Wren Skyships Limited was formed from key members
of the rigid division of AIL and began operating with Major
M.W. Wren as Chairman and Chief Executive, P.W.C. Monk as
Technical Director and J.A. Dean as Chief Accountant. It
took over the Isle of Man premises of AIL.
Wren Skyships based themselves on the Isle of Man, with
the understanding that a cost effective link between the
UK at Liverpool and the Isle of Man, could be used. Traditionally
the island was serviced by small regional airlines, and
the Isle of Man Steam Packet Ferry Company, operating a
ferry service, to connect Dublin and Liverpool.
Wren Skyships undertook
a feasibility study and knew there was a market to ferry
workers to and from the Island, from both the United Kingdom
and Ireland. From company documentation it was quoted that
Isle of Man makes an idea operating base for the initial
routes under consideration. Since these will be new routes
e.g. Jurby to Preston, route allocation will not present
a significant problem".
The concept of the ANR was to fill the role to be a competitive
passenger transport on routes up to 80 nautical miles. The
concept design was to fill the role and take on airship
operations beyond the tourist flight sector which had been
established by Airship Industries operations using the Skyship
500 and 600 models, and in to a a regular point to point
passenger service. To this end the ANR was designed with
a maximum speed of 95 mph compared to a Skyship 500's maximum
speed of 67 mph. The ANR was designed to be a competitive
passenger transport aircraft over short ranges.
The Chief Designer, Mr. Pat Munk, not to be confused with
Roger Monk of Airship Industries, joined the company in
1980 from New Zealand Aerospace, and the Wren Skyships Design
team, engaged in designing a sophisticated, metal clad airship,
the RS-1. At the time the RS-1 was much larger than the
Airship Industries Skyship 600, and similar in concept to
the successful US Navy type ZMC2.
A construction building was required, and the same team
produced a design consisting of steel A-frames, and a three
pointed arch roof. The configuration of the arch was derived
from the form of the airship itself, which had to of it's
power plants above the centre line of the hull. Both ends
of the shed were designed as apsoidal, and the fixed end
with variable louvres to reduce the piston effect when the
ship enters or exits the shed. The opening end was designed
to provide doors rolling laterally on ground tracks.
The company set up a subsidiary holding in the U.S. named
American Skyship Industries, Inc. (ASI) was established
as the U.S. manufacturing arm of Wren Skyships, ostensibly
for the production of Metalclad airships. ASI was founded
by partners, Russell Scoville II, and Major Malcolm W. Wren
RE. in 1981. No manufacturing facility, nor any airship,
was ever built.
The City of Youngstown
sold Lansdowne Airport to American Skyship Industries, Inc.
for US$1 the sale being contingent on construction
of manufacturing facilities on the site. The airport was
named after the noted American Navy rigid airship pioneer,
Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Lansdowne. This sale of Lansdowne airport
was met with some local opposition, concerns ranging from
airship safety to a large hangar obstructing the view or
being an eyesore.
By the summer of 1983,
efforts to obtain federal and state funding had stalled.
In June of that year, federal officials informed American
Skyship Industries Inc. that additional proof of private
financing was required before $4.2 million in federal loans
and grants could be released. Internal disagreements and
failure to raise the required private financing lead to
Scoville's departure from the company he had co-founded.
Afterward, the company was briefly managed by Michael McL.
Foster-Turner. The company's offices were finally closed
in the end of 1984.
Airship Corporation (AAC)
Wren Skyships became the Advanced Airship Corporation (AAC)
in 1988. Construction of the prototype ANR 1 was commenced.
The ANR 1 was a smaller ship design, and AAC obtained enough
funding to commence the project.
At the time contracts were put in place with Clyde Canvas
to erected the hangar structure, Parkinson Groundworks to
be completed by mid October 1987 and Rovacabin to provide
canteen, offices, first aid room, workshops and lavatories.
The steel frame was delivered to the Ramsey, on the Isle
on Man aboard the Gustav Trader, one of the largest
ships to have entered Ramset harbour for some time. The
construction of the smaller shed was commenced at Jurby
Aerodrome in March 1988, and erected over the course of
the summer. The new shed was a sophisticated, being 25 lightweight
lattice steel barrel vault arches, a perfect hemicycle,
covered in ultraviolet resistant plastic membrane. The canvas
was of a grey with the upper area being white to blend in
with the surroundings. This was a a very advanced design
for it's time. Both ends of the shed had a belled our formation,
to lessen wind resistance. A door opening system is operated
by winches which raise the membrane door system between
two lattice steel towers. The building was designed and
erected by Clyde Canvas Limited. Helium storage was in the
form of cylinders stored beside the hanger. The internal
offices and design and construction offices were installed
in the Rovacabins on the inside of the shed.
Vault Radius: 22.25m
Construction was completed by the summer of 1988 officially
opened on 14th June, almost exactly 4 months from when the
first ceremonial "sod" was cut under much media
and press spotlight for the company.
Construction of the ANR 1 was undertaken in the newly completed
shed. In August of 1988, Airborne Industries, the airship
and balloon manufacturer delivered the envelope from their
Leigh on Sea fabric manufacturing site. By December 1988,
the prototype envelope was ready for air inflation tests.
The construction of the gondola, engines and tailfins commenced
over 1989 and into 1990.
It was during a gale
force storm on Friday 13th January, 1989, the main fabric
door on the hangar torn, and eventually destroyed. The envelope
was quickly deflated in order to safeguard the airship.
Temporary scaffolding and covering was erected to protect
the interior of the hangar. Two months after the storm,
on 13th March, the envelope was re-inflated inside the hangar.
Further research and
design continued on the prototype ship, and after a pressure
tear test, it was decided that a new envelope was required.
By November 1989, it was decided that a new a stronger Kevlar
PU type material, known as Aramid, was used for the envelope.
The envelope would be lighter, stronger and less permeable
to helium gas. Due to it's design, would not allow the envelope
to stretch change shape, and therefore designed to be similar
to that of a metal clad airship such as the US Navy ZMC-2,
and the original R30 metalclad design ship. The design team
was presented with a difficult choice, to continue with
and fit the existing development envelope to the prototype
ship, and then replace it with the newer envelope when it
was available, or to wait, and fit the new envelope when
it was ready.
There were concerns over the serviceability of the existing
development fabric for high speed flying, even though the
existing enveloped more than adequately fulfilled the FAA
requirements for tear strength. It was the company's intention
to use the first envelope for early low speed test flying
and then replace it with the newer envelope during the test
flight programme. However the new kevlar fabric would be
made available sooner than originally planned. It was seen
than an envelope change would take 2-3 months, and ultimately
impose a delay on the production of the ANR No.2 prototype
The new envelope was
delivered and the prototype ship gondola and tailfins were
attached to it. Due to the weight of the envelope, it was
hung from the shed roof and air inflated to keep shape.
This added addition time to the construction of the ship,
and delayed the ANR 1 further final completion.
By August 1989, a mast
had been erected on the landing ground outside of the shed.
At the top, the receptor, into which a non retractable probe
on the carapace of the airship will fit, was designed to
be fitted to the top of the new mast. It would be capable
of turning 360 degrees enabling the ANR 1 to weathervane
whatever the wind direction. The ship would be guided into
the receptor cone, by leading a rope attached to the probe,
through the receptor and then down the mast tower to a winch
Moving in to the new
decade, August 1990 saw the avionics, fuel systems and main
pilot controls being manufactured and assembled. Along with
the ANR-1 prototype nearly being completed, the work had
commenced on ANR-2 with the ribs for the gondola already
being fitted to the gondola jig.
With an oil price
shock, the ending of the Cold War, and the considerable
drop in defense spending, causing spiraling inflation rates
for many countries, the world was plunged in to a deep financial
recession. The impact it had on the UK economy was not felt
until the winter of 1990 and so plunging the country in
to recession in the beginning of 1991. AAC was hampered
by liquidity funding problems and work on the ship finally
stalled, and in June 1991 the work on the ship, ceased,
and most of the staff at the company were made redundant.
By 1993 funding options were no longer available, and unfortunately
Advanced Airship Corporation went into liquidation on 1st
March 1993. By 27th April 1993, the ANR 1 airship gondola
and envelope was sold, to Linstrad Balloons, at Oswestry.
The gondola was later again transported
to Aviodrome, Lelystad airport in
the Netherlands. Receivers sold the property owned by the
company on 27th September 1993.
The same financial recession and liquidation problems also
saw the closure of Airship Industries, in September 1990,
the same company which AAC grew from.
The shed remained in
place and could be seen still at the Jurby Airfield until
2009, when it was later dismantled.
Today the a segment
of the composite nose carapace, one fin structure and one
ruddervator, and can be seen on show at the Isle
of Man Motor Museum, located on the same Jurby Airfield
where the AAC were based. Sadly
today, all that remains of the hangar at Jurby is the low
outer wall, within which is the service area and parking
for the nearby go-cart track.