Advanced search

This week in 1919

R34 airship makes first trans-Atlantic return

Experimental aircraft is propelled into action

Source: Deadline

At the beginning of the First World War, Britain commissioned a series of airships for military use. Among these was the R34, spanning the length of two football fields and costing an estimated £350,000.

By the time the Clyde-built R34 was complete, however, the war had ended and the Admiralty instead agreed to lend her to the Air Ministry for air-travel experiments. In July 1919, she became the first airship to make a return journey across the Atlantic in a feat described by The Engineer as a ’triumph for British aeronautics’.

The journey was made under the command of Major GH Scott and from the East Fortune Aerodrome at 1.48am on 2 July. Hours into the flight, the first incident took place when it was discovered that a stowaway had crept on board and hidden between the girders and the gas bags inside the hull.

Despite the initial setback, the article said: ’Nothing worse occurred than the cracking of a cylinder water jacket, which was repaired with a piece of copper sheeting and chewing gum.’ The R34 arrived over Newfoundland at about 2pm on 4 July and later travelled to Mineola, Long Island, where it landed on 6 July.

The article continued: ’Although the petrol carried amounted at the outset to 4,900 gallons – nearly 16 tons – the fuel supply began at that period to give some grounds for anxiety. Nevertheless, the journey was continued and in the end, the airship landed at Mineola with a petrol supply sufficient only for 40 minutes further flight.’

The total time occupied on the outbound journey, was 108 hours and 12 minutes. On her return to England, one of the five engines was put out of action due to a broken connecting rod. The airship continued flying and safely reached Pulham Aerodrome in Norfolk on 13 July.

Readers' comments (4)

  • I think it's right to say that not only was this the first airship to do the round trip, it was, more importantly, the first AIRCRAFT to make the round trip; not only that, but the first aircraft to do the east-west crossing, previous crossings being all in the west-east direction, presumably gaining a significant benefit from prevailing winds.
    I'd welcome any corrections.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The story of airship/dirigible start-stop development is fascinating; a lot of it is now available on the internet. Design of fixed wing aircraft kept ahead of them, and mostly owing to their safety drawbacks.

    The design of the geodesic space-frame structures for the dirigibles, subsequently used elsewhere as on the Wellington bomber and since surpassed with the help of digital computer analysis (e.g. the Birdcage in the China Olympics) was important

    And the two massive hangers at Cardington used for the later R100and R1010, one of these hangers later served for testing of large building structures under the auspices of the Building Research Establishment Names like Barnes Wallis, A.J.S. Pippard, and J.F. Baker, structural design pioneers, were associated.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • My great grandfather was one of a 5 man crew. His job was taking care of the outer skin. He made a repair in flight during a storm.The crew had to wear sheepskin shoes that protected them from creating static electricity. He was Jack Vickery. RIP

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It saddens me that there is not more fanfare for the R34. Crossing the Atlantic against the wind is no mean feat; commercial jets today still take an extra hour and a half to do so. Three cheers for all who helped to make the first east-west aerial crossing: Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say


My saved stories (Empty)

You have no saved stories

Save this article