The rigid airship R101 was built at the Royal Airship Works, Cardington, Bedfordshire, UK in 1928-29. Power was provided by five Beardmore 'Tornado' Mark III liquid-cooled diesel engines rated at 585 horsepower per engine. Lifting capacity of 169.85 tons was achieved with 5.5 million cubic feet of hydrogen gas in separate envelopes. Total length of the R101 was 777 feet and at the time of her completion, R101 was the largest ever British airship. The R100, an airship of similar size was built at the same time by Vickers Ltd. Trials of R101 revealed a lack of adequate lift for commericial use and the airship was then cut in two to have more gas capacity installed. It was intended to operate the R101 on long-range passenger flights to and from British Empire countries, particularly India. A service to Australia was also planned. The problems plaguing the design were not resolved when R101 set out on her maiden flight to India with VIP passengers including UK Secretary of State for Air, Lord Thomson and the UK Director-General of Civil Aviation Sir Sefton Brancker. On 5 October 1930, R101 crashed at Beauvais, France during a storm with the loss of 48 of the 54 persons aboard. Along with Thomson and Brancker, one of those killed was RAAF Squadron Leader William Palstra MC, an Australian liaison officer in London. Palstra was a respected officer and was widely considered to be a future senior leader of the RAAF. The crash brought an early end to plans for an Imperial airship service and British rigid airship development.

Model History

This 1:132 scale model of the R101 was purchased by the Museum in 1938. It was built by Mr G.E. Marshall of Glen Innes.

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