Ready for take off, but not quite! Oh yes it did!
The first test-flight of the Airlander 10 didn’t quite happen on Sunday. A slight technical delay late in the day meant lift-off had to be postponed. On the Monday we drove to Cardington in hope of seeing the latest design In airships take off from the same historic airfield that R100 and the fated R101 were built and released into the air.
The years of research and development that have gone into the Airlander 10 make it a truly innovative and unique step into the future of transportation, albeit with this model too small for serious freight supplies and personnel ( see plan for Airlander 50) rather than its current tourist passengers and ‘proving’. There is a long history in its development as there is a long history in companies working on airships at the Cardington hangars. Still, I believe, the largest in the world.
We two were not alone in trying to see the ship. When we arrived by accidentally following the correct road to be able to park in a small layby and walk on a public footpath beside the airfield and a recently harvested field. Corn, wheat, barley? Sorry I am ignorant of what the grain stalks might have told. However it was pleasing to see assorted people walking up and down the edge of the perimeter fence to get a view or a photo of the great white bulk sitting in the field. Interestingly it was not only old gents like me with a liking for airships, maybe a majority though, but also a couple of family groups and several locals who had lived with several if not many great occasions at Cardington.
Yes, it was me that started a conversation about the R100 and another enthusiast who spoke of the R101 disaster. ” Do you know who designed the R100?” A gauntlet seemingly aimed at me. I hesitated briefly giving him the opportunity to forestall my answer. It didn’t quite work and we both gave our names simultaneously. Unfortunately we both said different names. Barnes Wallis says I, Nevil Shute, says he. We both hesitated again, this time I got in first by saying that Barnes Wallis was one of the designers (I think maybe of the internal framework, the geodetic design….or at least it’s particular use in airships. Forgive me if I am wrong); and Nevil Shute was a, or the, mathematician on the project. I suspect they were both cogs, albeit most memorable, in a large design and construct team.
I had read the Barnes Wallis biography and he had read the Neil Shute autobiography…… One for me to find. Nevil Shute went to to fame with his novels, of which I read many and Barnes Wallis may be best know for inventing the ‘bouncing bomb’ and others plus working on ‘swing wing’ designs for aircraft. Apologies again for shuffling out memories of what I have read rather than new, detailed research. Feel free to do your own research, I do t mind being shown to be wrong! Much!
We did meet a old lady(sorry but true) who said that her (mothers) sister married a crew member, a survivor from the R101 crash and fireball in France. Following with a brief description of the crowds lining 12 deep the roads from Bedford rail station to the church at Cardington where fatalaties were buried. Again research required for specifics.
Another man, maybe with contacts said the craft was due to test fly the following day, on the Tuesday. Sadly I will in Gloucestershire so no chance to check it out….. Really hope it does. Assume it will be on the news.
Talking of airships and coincidence, they have loomed a little large recently as I have found some poems relating to the first bombing raid of WW1 airships on London and researched a little on the event. Shortly after that my sister was asked to research on a local WW1 event of an airship landing/crashing in Essex and being set fire by the captain so it could not be salvaged, re-used or whatever. This event is still almost in living memory, as are the R100 and R101.
Leads me to realise that we are all so close to history, past or present.
Shame I wasnt there but pleased to see snippets on the BBC news, the Airlander Club and their website: www.hybridairvehicles