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H.M. Balloon Factory No.1 (RI) / Mayfly

Vickers No.1 (RI) / Mayfly

 

hmmayfly


The UK’s first rigid airship was proposed in 1908 as a means of evaluating the naval airship as a weapon of war along German lines, and an order was placed with Vickers. The work was to be undertaken by a joint civilian/naval team, few of whose members had much experience in the type of work involved. Since the vessel was to be flown from water her gondolas were given planing bottoms, although alternative mooring to a mast anticipated German ideas. Construction was to be of the new alloy duralumin as a compromise between those factions who wanted wood or steel. Engine tests were begun in mid-February 1911, and it was hoped that the maiden flight might coincide with the Coronation Review of the fleet by King George V. However, the extraction of HMA No. 1 (RI) from its floating shed called on the resources of a number of tugs and a hauling party of 300 sailors on the ropes, a difficult task since the airship, now nicknamed Mayfly, proved much heavier than expected. This combined with misdirection of the handling party or (according to some reports) a sudden cross-wind, caused the airship to strike one of the uprights of the shed entrance, some damage resulting. This was unfortunate, since an earlier sojourn in the open had seen the airship successfully moored to the short mast provided as the superstructure of a naval vessel (the first use of such equipment in history) and reports speak of the RI thus riding out a storm with winds rising to as high as 72 km/h (45 mph). Even so, the damage now sustained had to be repaired, and the airship’s return to its shed also provided an opportunity to lighten the structure. It was not until late September that the RI next appeared, fully loaded with hydrogen after a 10-hour inflation of the gas cells and ready for flight. The method of handling was as before, and it was necessary for the airship’s nose to be turned. Hardly had the strain been taken on the ropes than a loud crashing was heard from within the centre of the vessel as its back broke. Understandably the crew began to leap overboard as ordered, and with the weight relieved from the rear gondola the stern rose up to complete the destruction. The Mayfly never flew and was later scrapped.

HMA No. 1
Engines: two 119,3-kW (160-hp) Wolseley eight-cylinder water-cooled piston
Estimated maximum speed 64 km/h (40 mph)
Estimated useful lift 20321 kg (44.800 lb)
Diameter 14.63 m (48 ft 0 in)
Length 156.06 m (512 ft 0 in)
Volume 18774 cu.m (663,000 cu ft)

 


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