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Sadly we have to report the passing of one of our longest standing members. Jim Empson died on Friday 13th October, aged 85. A tribute to Jim is on our OBITUARIES page.

On Friday 2nd December, we had another good turnout for our Monthly Meeting….. when we listened to a fascinating talk: “Airships – Technological dead end, or the future?” given by Geoffrey Kaye. The Story of the Airship, from very early days, through the Great War, and then concentrating on the R34, R100, and R101.

The R34 was discussed, being perhaps the most successful British built Airship – leaving Scotland on 2nd July 1919 becoming the first manmade vehicle to fly East to West across the Atlantic, against the prevailing wind – just a short time after Alcock and Brown had flown the other way in a Vickers Vimy (Great War Bomber).

Geoffrey told the R100 and R101 Airship’s story…. The R100 was a Private Venture Project, built at Howden in Yorkshire, with the hallmarks of being the better Airship, crossing the Atlantic to Montreal in under 79 hours. The R101 was a Government Venture Project, being built in massive Airship Hangars at Cardington, Bedfordshire. However the portents were not good…… when completed it was grossly over design weight, and was never awarded it Certificate of Airworthiness –  barely having enough lift to cross the Dover Straits on the way, on October 5th 1930, to its intended destination, India.

Hardly surprising therefore that it basically flopped on the Ground in a rain storm, at Beauvais, 40 miles north of Paris. Whilst survivable, the fact that the Airship was now leaking highly inflammable Hydrogen gas meant it burst into flames, only 6 of the 48 on board surviving.

The death knell of the Airship, was  further sealed by the Inferno of The German Hindenburg Airship bursting into flames at Lakehurst, New Jersey, on 6th May 1937 - filmed and then seen around the world.

Geoffrey finished his talk by looking at the modern Airlander,  also built at Cardington. Would this be a success?  Geoffrey in unconvinced – as recent issues during its testing seem to indicate there are still many problems to overcome – not least coping with British Weather!.      Howard King