R-100 Airship: Inside a British “Flying Hotel”, 1929-1930

The R-100 moored in Cardington, England. 1929.

The R100 airship was built as part of a British government programme to develop airships to provide passenger and mail transport between Britain and the countries of the British Empire, including India, Australia and Canada. Originally, it was proposed that two airships be constructed: one, R101, to be designed and constructed under the direction of the Air Ministry, and the other, R100, to be built by a private company under a fixed price contract.

Photo credit: Planet News Archive/Getty Images/Keystone France/Hulton Archive/Fox Photos

h/t: rarehistoricalphotos

The R-100 nears completion in its hangar in Yorkshire. 1929.

The R100, designed by Barnes Wallis, was the first to be finished in Howden, Yorkshire in 1929. The airframe was made of duralumin, an early aluminum alloy, and covered with a giant 5-acre fabric coating stitched together in pieces and stretched into place. Inside the cavernous 146,000 cubic metre shell, 17 gas bags made from oxen intestines provided the all-important buoyancy.

Passengers lounge in the grand salon of the R-100. 1930.

After the 7 successful trial flights and flights checking the outer cover ripple effect, the decision was made for a transatlantic flight or long distance proving flight by one of the two new airships. As the R101 had been put back in Shed Number 1 for further changes to the design to increase the disposable lift, the R100 was tasked with a trip to Canada, successfully crossing the Atlantic to Montreal to the newly erected mast. The ship slipped the moorings from the Cardington mast at 02.48am on the morning of 29th July 1930. The ship flew over the Atlantic and headed down the Newfoundland coast.

Passengers admire the view from the veranda deck of the R-100. 1929.

After R101 crashed and burned in France, en route to India on 5 October 1930, the Air Ministry ordered R100 grounded. It was deflated and hung up in its shed at Cardington for a year whilst three options were considered: a complete refit of R100 and continuation of tests for the eventual construction of R102; static testing of R100 and retention of about 300 staff to keep the programme “ticking over”; or retention of staff and the scrapping of the airship. In November 1931, it was decided to sell R100 for scrap. The entire framework of the ship was flattened by steamrollers and sold for less than £600.

Passengers pass the time in the R-100’s lounge. 1929.

A maid prepares a dish in the airship’s galley. 1929.

Passengers enjoying the views from above. 1929.

A maid sets up a table for lunch in the lounge. 1929.

A passenger looking outside the R-100 panoramic windows.

Passengers hang around the salon and upper gallery. 1930.

Maids set up tables in the lounge for a meal. 1929.

The lounge is rearranged as a dining room for meals. 1929.

R-100 airship (interior).

Reading and playing cards in R-100’s deck.

The R-100 leaves her mooring on her maiden voyage.

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