25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 17

• It101'

[To The Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

Sin,---In your article on October 11th on the R 101,' you ask " whether it is reasonable to hope for victory or whether it is better to abandon a hopeless quest"? Final decision will have to await the report of the Committee of inquiry, but in the meantime I may draw the attention of your readers to the one natural cause which prevents all lighter-than-air craft from being safe and practical propositions for transport pur- poses, which I have never seen commented upon.

It is that the difference in weight between the air and hydrogen or helium, the only known gasses lighter than air, is too small to give the buoyancy required for both structural and freight carrying purposes. The lift of 5,000,000 cubic feet of hydrogen, the capacity of ` R 100,' is only 151 tons, that of the same quantity of helium is 10 tons less.

Now the net (i.e., the paying load) equals this gross lift minus the total ,weight of the structure, engines, fuel, crew, ballast and fittings, etc., and with such materials as are known or possible to present-day engineering, the net lift cannot be a commercial proposition, the margin is altogether too small. For to be of any value an air transport service must work, as do all other forms of transport, under a scheduled time-table, and this compels the airship to carry a reserve of fuel sufficient to meet the worst recorded weather conditions on her route. This will leave nothing out of the 151 tons to veer and haul upon, nor, even if the capacity was doubled, would it give any better result, it would only make an airship more unhandy and dangerous.

It is the attempt to overcome this natural and inherent defect that has been the endeavour of the experts both in design and construction and, whatever the actual cause of the disaster to ' R 101,' out of many possibilities it is this inherent defect that is at the bottom of it.

The quest for lighter materials, prime movers, fuel, &c., is a general improvement for which engineers are striving throughout the world and is not a research peculiar to airships. Such improvements are of universal application and advantage.

If, and when, such things have become a reality and of sufficient value and importance for the use of airships, a difficult and doubtful proposition which will mean a revolution as great as that produced by the original invention of the internal combustion engine, then it will be time enough for airship enthusiasts to re-submit their schemes for considera- tion. In the meantime little, if any, technical improvement is possible, and suchsmall savings in weight as might be effected would probably be offset by the reduced lifting power of helium which now appears to be accepted as an essential.— 22 Richmond Mansions, S.W. 5. (Admiral, Retired.)