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Willows III

The Willow 3 was the outcome of five years of experimental work on the simple steering mechanism. The elevation of the dirigible is accomplished by the same set of propellers that produce the forward drive, and by this means it is possible to rise in the vertical plane to any desired altitude even with the whole system heavier than air, and also to rise diagonally in any angle between the vertical and horizontal.
E.T.Willows in the car of his airship
One instance when this direct lift would prove of great value would be in the case of a machine becoming rainsoaked and unable to raise itself by the lifting power of the gas, as occurred at the Crystal Palace when the "Nulli Secundus" was docked there.
In practice the machine is ballasted, so as to have just sufficient buoyancy to lift the 150 ft. trail-rope, and is then driven to the desired altitude, or driven downwards, by the propellers as required.
It has taken some considerable time to perfect this device, because the control of this movement, when applied to a bevel-driven propeller-shaft revolving at high speed, becomes most difficult in practice where ease and quickness of operation are essential.
Other features of this airship are its symmetrical appearance and the ease with which it can be dismantled; in fact it is possible to pack the whole apparatus upon a one-horse trolley for transport.
The system upon which the dirigible has been built is rigid, and quite small, having been constructed for demonstration purposes, it is possible with a few modifications to lay down a dirigible on the same lines of any size.
The following are the leading dimensions and details:—Envelope length, 86 ft.; diameter, 22 ft.; fish-shaped, having the greatest diameter about one-third in from the nose, capacity 21,000 cubic ft. The usual valves are fitted; top gas valve, automatic gas and air valves, and ripping panel; a ballonette of one-tenth capacity is placed in centre of lower half of balloon. The suspension is taken by ropes from a canvas band, sewn round the envelope, to a boom 58 ft. in length, built up of 3 in. bamboos and a light 3 in. steel tube.
The car containing the motor, propelling gear, and operator's seat is hung below the boom by steel cables. A balanced rudder of 56 sq. ft. area is carried at the extremity of the boom also a vertical vane, which has a steadying effect upon the forward motion of the airship. The car is of triangular section and 10 ft. in length, built of steel tube braced with steel wire; the motor, a 30-h.p. 8-cylinder J.A.P., drives a right and left hand propeller placed one on either side of car, through belting and bevel gear.
The propellers are of steel tube with aluminium blades; a guard is fitted to prevent any possibility of damage to the balloon by fracture of a propeller.
The control consists of a steering wheel, which by rotary movement operates the rudder and by a sliding movement alters the position of the propellers for ascending or descending.
A clutch lever and throttle completes the control, so that the machine can be driven single handed, the operator also having the balloon valve lines within reach, which enables a passenger, or for military purposes an observer, to be carried. The weight of the complete car is 550 lbs., the suspension boom 100 lbs., gas-bag 350 lbs. and rudder and vane 21 lbs.
The erecting of the machine and most of the construction has been carried out at Cardiff, the whole of the airship being British built.
The trials which took place during November and December 1909 from the East Moors, Cardiff, were satisfactory in every way, and the airship was overhauled in preparation for some tests of a more severe nature.
The Willows No.3, named City of Cardiff, of 33,000 cu.ft capacity was completed in November 1910 and, with Willows on board, left from Wormwood Scrubs to undertake the first flight from London to Paris, a distance of 218 miles. During this voyage, after a trouble free Channel crossing, a forced landing due to engine trouble necessitated a diversion for repairs. These repairs were carried out at the workshops of Clement-Bayad airship company at Levallois-Peret. After repairs the airship continued to Paris the next day, arriving to much acclaim and earning the distinction of being the first British airship to cross the Channel.


November 1911






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