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PLEASE NOTE: The Spring 2017 price changes that Shapeways introduced for Frosted Detail printed items increased the price of this model enormously. Rather than remove it altogether, I have placed it in the LEGACY section of my shop. I will introduce a new version in other materials and at a lower price as soon as I can . I do have a number of models to work through however, so please bear with me. Message me if you would like to know when the new model is likely to be available.
Arguably the most beautiful of the big intercontinental passenger airships and certainly one of the most tragic. The R101 was crippled in her design and operation by government interference from the outset. And yet there was some superb workmanship employed in her construction and many innovative and interesting design features managed to survive the deadening hand of bureaucracy. Sadly though some of these ideas were untested and a determination to build in wide safety margins catastrophically reduced the most necessary margin of all - maximum useful lift . On completion in October 1929, the ship was the largest man made object ever to fly and had superb passenger accommodation. The R101 was conceived as a lavish floating hotel with wonderful luxuries, even when judged by today's standards. The open promenade decks and public spaces were unique in the skies. The large British ships were the first to adopt the style of using the interior of the ship for the passenger accommodation. The only contemporary ship which was running a passenger service was the German LZ127 - Graf Zeppelin, which could only accommodate 20 passengers in a stretched forward gondola beneath the hull of the ship. The utilisation of interior space within the R101 (and R100) was a first of its kind and she could boast 2 decks of space, a dinning room which could seat 60 people at a time and a smoking room which could seat 20. The promenades with their massive windows showed off the outside views to the fullest advantage. Compared to the noisy smelly and tiring journey in an aeroplane, the airships were seen as pure luxury, with service comparable to that of the greatest ocean liners. In October 1930, after just one sixteen-hour test flight following a major rebuild to increase her lift, the crew and controllers of R101 were urged on to make her maiden voyage to Karachi. The then Secretary of State for Air for the British government, Lord Thomson memo'd "I must insist on the programme for the Indian flight being adhered to, as I have made my plans accordingly." At 18h24 on 4 October 1930, R101 backed away from the mast at Cardington and headed into a night of increasingly heavy rain and strong headwinds. Some observers thought that she was struggling even as she left Cardington field. Just after 2am the following morning, R101 crashed into a hillside in Beauvais, northern France. There were only six people who survived; 48 crew and passengers died, and with them the hopes and dreams that had driven the formation of the British "Imperial Airship Scheme".