Airship Dreams: Escaping Gravity

Airship Dreams: Escaping Gravity Blog

R100 90th Anniversary: Top 10 Facts

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the R100’s successful maiden overseas voyage, Lydia Saul, Keeper of Social History at The Higgins Bedford, shares ten interesting facts about the airship that was built in Cardington (along with its more well-known ‘sister’ the R101), in the 1930s.


  1. The R100’s flight was an experimental one and in this regard it should not be forgotten that when the airship was designed she was approximately twice the size of the largest airship then built and incorporated many novel features
  2. The R100 was built for the Air Ministry by the Airship Guarantee Company, a subsidiary of Vickers Ltd, at Howden, Yorks, and was first launched on December 16th 1929.
  3. They carried out flying trials for the R100 amounting to over 100 hours, including a duration test of approximately 54 hours, mostly in thick cloud.
  4. It had six of the latest Rolls Royce Condor IIIB engines as used in the Royal Air Force. Each of these engines develops 650 that the airship will have a maximum available horse power of 3,900.
  5. The flight was to be made from the Royal Airship Works, Cardington, Bedford to St. Hubert Air Station, Montreal, where a mooring tower, similar to the one at Cardington, and refuelling and gassing facilities were provided by the Canadian Government. The great circle course (shortest route) between these stations measures 3,242 miles.
  6. The flying crew consisted of five officers and 32 men, which was standard for a two watch crew.
  7. A relief watch was sent to Canada sometime before the flight. It consisted of 4 riggers, 1 chargehand engineer, 5 engineers and 1 W.T. operator. The assistant coxswain of this watch was included in the flying crew above.
  8. When the R100 moored to the tower at St.Hubert, one watch was always on duty and a stand-by watch would be in close attendance, and undertake maintenance duties during the day. The third watch would be off duty for 24 hours at a time. Some, if not all, of this watch would take the place of certain members of the outward crew on the return flight. Sounds like they were a dedicated team!
  9. It should be noted that the crew of R100 was entirely civil personnel (so not military trained) with the exception of two officers and one N.C.O. of the. Royal Air Force who are seconded for duty on airships.
  10. On the trans-Atlantic flight, the airship carried food for five days, which included: three days’ ordinary rations, one day’s reserve rations, and one day’s emergency rations. The total amount of food amounted to about 2,000 Ibs. 500 gallons of drinking and washing water would also be required during the flight.

Images: courtesy of the Airship Heritage Trust