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H.M. Balloon Factory Gamma


An Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was formed in 1909, and a small dirigible, the Baby, was completed and flown. At the end of the year the Balloon School was made a separate establishment with Capper at its head, and the Factory became a civilian unit, although still under War Office direction.
The airship Baby had been rebuilt and improved into the larger Beta, and followed by the progressively larger Gamma of 1910 and Delta. The airship was a considerable advance on Beta both in size and lift capacity, being 152 feet in length and 30 feet in diameter with an initial capacity of 75,000 cu.ft giving a gross lift of 2.1 tons.
The airship Gamma, which had been designed by Colonel Capper, successfully made its maiden flight in February 1910 at Farnborough.
During the army manoeuvres of 1910 HMA Beta and recently completed Gamma were employed in evaluating their potential use to the army in warfare: in extended flights over Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire ad Wiltshire flying reconnaissance sorties; scouting for attacking and defending forces for a period of two months; covering, in the case of Beta, in excess of 1000 miles; spending most nights moored out in the open, using the cover afforded by a screen of trees; being maintained and serviced under these basic conditions, and on one occasion having a broken crankshaft replaced within the protection of a quarry.
During 1911 wireless experiments were carried out with Gamma, where messages were received at ranges of up to 30 miles distant.
Later in 1912 Gamma was reconstructed by lengthening the envelope, increasing the capacity to 101,000 cu.ft and lift to 2.9 tons. In her final form a long, metal-framed car was suspended below a bright yellow rubberised cotton fabric envelope made by the Astra-Torres company in Paris, earning her the nickname the Yellow Peril. Power was supplied by a 35 hp four cylinder, water cooled Green engine driving swivelling propellers mounted on out-riggers from the car, giving her a still air speed of 35 mph.
The swivelling propellers were capable of moving through 240 degrees about her longitudinal axis and were most effective in controlling the ship during climbing and landing. They represented a great technical achievement for the small balloon factory staff at the time.
The envelope was sub-divided by internal tranverse partitions to prevent surging of gas, and had multiple ballonets to preserve envelope pressure.
Capacity: 101,000 cu.ft
Length: 152 ft
Width: 30 ft
Height: 52 ft
Gross lift: 2.9 ton
Disposable lift: 0.5 ton
Engines: 2 x Green 80 hp
Speed: 32 mph
Crew: 5



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