R101 airship, 1929-1930.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plans to build the R101 airship began in 1924 when the Imperial Airship Scheme was first proposed. This scheme ultimately sought to build an airship capable of carrying 200 military troops or 5 fighter aircraft. To achieve this, a huge airship eight million cubic feet in size would be required. Two smaller prototypes, the R100 and R101 were to be built first to see if this was viable. Work on the R101 was completed in 1929. At 777 feet long, 131 feet in diameter, and with a volume of 5.5 million cubic feet, it was the largest airship of its time and could attain speeds of up to 71mph (114kmph). Built as a commercial pasenger ship, R101 incorporated 2 decks, a dining room and a smoking room. It provided a much quicker alternative to travel by ocean liner and was equally luxurious.