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H.M.Balloon Factory Nulli Secundus


Nulli Secundus
The first official government interest began in 1907 at Farnborough where, after receiving a small grant from the War Office of £2000, Colonels Capper and S.F.Cody wre able to start work on the first of the army airships, the Nulli Secundus.
The airship was designed as a semi-rigid and was to be built under conditios of the greatest secrecy. A noticeable feature of the completed craft was the long, uncovered square section metal keel suspended 12 feet below a cylindrical goldbeaters’ skin envelope of 56,000 cu.ft capacity. With a length of 120 ft, power was provided by a 50 hp Antoinette petrol motor, which doubled as the power unit for Cody’s Army Aeroplane No.1, and which drove two aluminium paddle propellers on each side of a small car suspended below the keel containing the crew of three.
An advanced feature of the propellers was that they represented the first use of a variable pitch mechanism in any aircraft, so that the blades coulb be set at an optimum angle of attack. The envelope lacked an internal balloonet compensating for the expansion of gas as the airship rose to a moderate altitude. They did inlude an automatic gas valve and two hand-operated manoeuvring valves.
The envelope was attached to the keel framework by four circumferential cloth bands and covered with cord netting. The netting bands being made necessary despite the extra weight due to thr extreme difficulty of attaching suspension wires or other attachments to the goldbeaters’ skin fabric. Twin rudders were fitted aft, while the elevating plane was situated at the bow in the hope of providing vertical control.
On September 10th, 1907, Nulli Secundus made her maiden flight.A series of short, local flights were made at Farnborough where a speed of 16 mph was obtained.


Following these tests Nulli Secundus departed on 5 October to fly to London, landing after a three and a half hour flight at Crystal Palace. Piloted by Capper and Cody, she set up an endurance record for non‑rigids by staying in the air for 3.5 hours on the journey from Farnborough to London. The achievement was unfortunately crowned by anti-climax, for excessive headwinds forced the airship down at Crystal Palace on the way back. Strengthening winds threatened to damage the moored ship and the sargent in charge instead ordered the ship to be inflated and it was returned to its base by road.
In December 1907, Cody began to build his first biplane at Farnborough, and Nulli Secundus was being rebuilt to emerge as Nulli Secundus II the following summer.
During the winter month the airship was rebuilt, emerging as Nulli Secundus II of a slightly increased capacity with a new, streamlined silk-covered deep keel that was attached directly to, and faired into, the underside of the envelope. Nulli Secundus IIhad made its first flight on July 24th, 1908. Several local flights were made during July and August, where a speed of 22 mph was recorded however both vertical and horizontal control was deemed to be inadequate and the airship was dismantled at the end of 1908.
In May 1909, after withdrawing its support for aeroplane experi­ments, the War Office reorganized the Factory for the primary task of producing airships.
Nulli Secundus II 1908
Capacity: 56,000 cu.ft
Length: 120 ft
Diameter: 26 ft
Height: 44 ft
Gross lift: 1.0 ton
Disposable lift: 0.20 ton
Engine: 1 x Antoinette, 50 hp
Speed: 12 mph
Endurance: 4 hr
Crew: 3






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