Skip to main content

The Flight to India

The R101, a British rigid airship commissioned in the late 1920s, completed ten test flights. After completing these flights, it was decided that the R101 lacked enough lift to make long-distance flights on a regular basis.  Because the overland flight to the tropical heat of India was recognised as being considerably more difficult than the flight to Canada, in July and August 1930, the R101 had an additional gas-bag and bay installed, increasing her length to 777 feet. 

The Final Flight of H M Airship R101

At 18:36 GMT on the evening of Saturday, 4th October 1930, after one further test flight, the R101 left Cardington for Karachi (then in India) with one intermediate stop scheduled at Ismailia in Egypt.  On board were 48 crew and just six passengers – including Lord Thomson of Cardington (HM Secretary of State for Air) and Air Vice-Marshal Sir Sefton Brancker (Director of Civil Aviation).

The weather that night was bad with strong headwinds and heavy rain.  The airship made slow progress towards London, passing over the capital at about 20:00 GMT and flying at a height of about 1,000 feet.  Soon after 02:00 on Sunday morning, 5th October 1930, the R101 had reached Beauvais in northern France when it went into a shallow dive, recovered and then grounded near the village of Allonne.  The airship immediately caught fire, resulting in the deaths of 48 of the 54 persons on board – including all six passengers.

Airships Online

The Airship Heritage Trustaims to foster and promote the study of the history of airships and present this to the public. You can find out further information about the Trust and the R101 through their website.

Find out more

Related information

Learn about the lying-in-state ceremony