Monday, 6 July 2009

The R101 Airship Disaster

The R101 was a British rigid airship completed in 1929 as part of the Imperial Airship Scheme. After initial flights, and two enlargements to the lifting volume, it crashed on 5 October 1930 in France during its maiden overseas voyage, killing 48 people. Amongst airship accidents of the 1930s, the loss of life surpassed the Hindenburg disaster of 1937 ans was second only to that of the USS Akron crash of 1933. The demise of R101 effectively ended British employment of rigid airships.

R101 was the result of a British government initiative to develop airships. In 1924 the Imperial Airship Scheme was proposed as a way to carry 200 troops or five fighter aircraft. Two airships were built by two separate teams. One under the direction of the Government Air Ministry (R101), the other by a private company, Vickers, (R100), under contract for a fixed price. Among Vicker's engineers were the designer Barnes Wallis, later famous for the bouncing bomb and, as Chief Calculator (that is, Stress Engineer), Nevil Shute Norway, later well known as a novelist.

The 101 project was hampered by serious mismanagement and meddling by the Air Ministry that threatened the whole project from the beginning. Weight problems caused by excessive safety concerns, and the failure to develop proposed hydrogen burning engines, were two of the major obstacles. At the time opinion about the R101, varies from the best airship ever designed to an appalling bad piece of engineering. As the project progressed more problems emerged; the wiring of gasbags, unsatisfactory valves, and an outer cover prone to deterioration, and unsatisfactory dynamics causing instability.

The building of the R101 began in 1926 at the Royal Airship Works at Cardington in Bedfordshire. Due to the many problems encountered the completion was delayed from 1927 to 1929. The R101 was meant to have a useful lift of 60 long tons but ended up only able to carry 35 tons.

During its flight at the Hendon air show in 1030, it almost plunged to the ground, as well as repeatedly going into a dive on the return flight. The airship operated under a 'Permit to Fly'. restricted to experimental craft operating only in British airspace. Further modifications were carried out,after which only one test flight was carried out. The safety inspector, McWade, refused to issue a a Certificate of Airworthiness. However, the records show that despite McWades objections a Certificate of Airworthiness was issued on 2 October.

At completion, she was the largest flying aircraft ever built. The passenger accommodation was spread over two decks,included 50 passenger cabins, a dining room for 60 people, two promenade decks and an asbestos-lined smoking room for 24 people. The upper deck contained a spacious lounge, together with passenger and crew space, kitchens and washrooms.

The final trial flight, originally scheduled for 26 Septeber 1930 was delayed by unfavourable wind until October 1. She returned to Cardington after a flight of 17 hours.

The R101 departed on October 4 for its intended destination Karachi (then part of British India). On release from its tether mast, the nose of the R101 dipped alarmingly, forcing the airship to drop 4 tons of water ballast to bring her back to true. The reduction in forward ballast reduced usable lift by almost half. In contravention of reports received from the airship about cruising height, observers across both the UK and France were amazed and alarmed to see the airship flying so low. Even though it was foul weather, observers reported seeing people at the windows of the airship. In France observers feared the airship was so low it was in danger of hitting rooftops. Over France, R101 close to Beauvais ridge at a height of 88 feet went into a dive from which she slowly recovered. Almost immediately the airship went into another dive and hit the ground. She caught fire almost at once and burned fiercely, taking 24 hours to burn out. 46 of the 54 passengers and crew were killed immediately. Two men who survived the crash died later in hospital bringing the total to forty-eight dead.

The Court of Inquiry concluded that there was evidence there had been a failure of the outer cover of the upper nose, leading to the destruction of a gas bag, loss of hydrogen lifting gas, and caused the nose to drop. The R101 was the end of British attempt to create a lighter-than-air aircraft. Its competitor, R100, despite a more successful development programme, and a safe transatlantic trial flight, was mothballed immediately after R101 crashed and sold for scrap in 1931.

Aesop's Fables - Androcles

A slave named Androcles once escaped from his master and fled to the forest. As he was wandering about there he came upon a Lion lying down moaning and groaning. At first he turned to flee, but finding that the Lion did not pursue him, he turned back and went up to him. As he came nearer, the Lion put out his paw, which was all swollen and bleeding, and Androcles found that a huge thorn had got in to it, and was causing all the pain. He pulled out the thorn and bound up the paw of the Lion, who was soon able to rise and lick the hand of Androcles like a dog. Then the Lion took Androcles to his cave, and every day used to bring him meat from which to live. But shortly afterwards both Androcles and the Lion were captured, and the slave was sentenced to be thrown to the lion, after the latter had been kept without food for several days. The Emperor and all his Court came to see the spectacle, and Androcles was led out into the middle of the arena. Soon the Lion was let loose from his den, and rushed bounding and roaring towards his victim. But as soon as he became near to Androcles he recognised his friend, and fawned upon him, and licked his hands like a friendly dog. The Emperor, surprised at this. summoned Androcles to him, who told him the whole story. Whereupon the slave was pardoned and freed, and the Lion let loose to his native forest.

Gratitude is the sign of noble souls

Today's Smile

Why God Made Mums

A further offering of answers given by 2nd Grade school children to the following questions.

What kind of little girl was your Mum?
1 My Mum has always been my Mum and none of that other stuff.
2 I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.
3 They say she used to be nice.

What did Mum need to know about Dad before she married him?
1 His last name.
2 She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3 Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores?

Why did your Mum marry your Dad?
1 My Dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mum eats a lot.
2 She got too old to do anything else with him.
3 My Grandma says that Mum didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1 Mum doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because Dad's such an idiot.
2 Mum. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3 I guess Mum is, but only because she has a lot more to do than Dad.

Even British Rail Never Got This Bad

Passengers riding on top of a train in New Delhi
(Click on image to enlarge)

Thought For Today

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you'
Dale Carnegie

Womens Handbags Are A Mess - Inside And Out

This is something that would never have occurred to me in a million years, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised how true it was. It also makes you realise it could also be applied to millions of other objects. I suppose the obvious one is money, coins have passed through many many hands, not all of them clean, before they are handed to you. It also brings home the message that we should all wash our hands far more regularly than we do. Without becoming paranoid we could all help to prevent the spread of disease and infection just by this simple act.
Have you ever noticed girls who set their handbags on public toilet floors, then go to their dining tables and set it on the table? Happens a lot!
It's not always the 'restaurant food' that causes stomach distress. Sometimes 'what you don't know will hurt you'!
Read on...............
Mom got so upset when guests came in the door and plopped their handbags down on the counter where she was cooking or setting up food. She always said that handbags are really dirty, because of where they have been.
It's something just about every woman carries with them. While we may know what's inside our handbags, do you have any idea what's on the outside? Women carry handbags everywhere; from the office to public toilets to the floor of the car. Most women won't be caught without their handbags, but did you ever stop to think about where your handbag goes during the day.
'I drive a school bus, so my handbag has been on the floor of the bus a lot,' says one woman. 'On the floor of my car, and in toilets.'
'I put my handbag in grocery shopping carts and on the floor of the toilet,' says another woman 'and of course in my home which should be clean.'
We decided to find out if handbags harbour a lot of bacteria. We learned how to test them at Nelson Laboratories in Salt Lake, and then we set out to test the average woman's handbag.
Most women told us they didn't stop to think about what was on the bottom of their handbag. Most said at home they usually set their handbags on top of kitchen tables and counters where food is prepared. Most of the ladies we talked to told us they wouldn't be surprised if their handbags were at least a little bit dirty.
It turns out handbags are so surprisingly dirty, even the microbiologist who tested them was shocked.
Microbiologist Amy Karen of Nelson Labs says nearly all of the handbags tested were not only high in bacteria, but high in harmful kinds of bacteria.
Pseudomonas can cause eye infections. Staphylococcus aurous can cause serious skin infections. And salmonella and e-coli found on the handbags could make people very sick.
In one sampling, four or five handbags tested positive for salmonella, and that's not the worst of it. 'There is faecal contamination on the handbags' says Amy. Leather or vinyl handbags tended to be cleaner than cloth handbags, and lifestyle seemed to play a role. People with kids tended to have dirtier handbags than those without, with one exception. The handbag of one single woman who frequented nightclubs had one of the worst contamination's of all. 'Some type of faeces, or possibly vomit' says Amy.
So, the moral of this story is that your handbag won't kill you, but it does have the potential to make you very sick if you keep it on places where you eat. Use hooks to hang your handbag at home and in toilets, and don't put it on your desk, a restaurant table, or on your kitchen counter top.
Experts say you should think of your handbag the same way you would a pair of shoes. 'If you think about putting a pair of shoes on your counter tops, that's the same thing you're doing when you put your handbag on the counter tops.'
Your handbag has gone where individuals before you have walked, sat, sneezed, coughed, spat, urinated, emptied bowels etc. Do you really want to bring that home with you?
The microbiologists at Nelson also said cleaning a handbag will help. Wash cloth handbags and use leather cleaner to clean the bottom of leather handbags.
Men: please pass this email on to the women in your life.