|National origin||United Kingdom|
|First flight||1 April 1921|
|Primary user||Air Ministry|
|Developed from||R33 class airship|
R36 was a British airship designed during World War I, but not completed until after the war. When she first flew in 1921, it was not in her originally intended role as a patrol aircraft for the Royal Navy, but as an airliner, the first airship to carry a civil registration (G-FAAF).
The design was produced by the new Airship Design Department, work commencing in November 1917. She was a lengthened version of the R33 class. These had been influenced by the design of the German Zeppelin LZ 76 that had been forced to land in England. The LZ 96, which was forced down at Bourbonne-les-Bains in June 1917, provided yet more input into the design. The R36, along with a second ship the R37 were to be a stretched version of the R33, getting more lift by adding another 33 feet (10 m) gas bag. Two of her five engines were German Maybach engines, recovered from the downed LZ 113.
Construction began before the end of the war, but the design was altered to include accommodation for 50 passengers. This was more than twice the number carried by the two German airships LZ 120 Bodensee and LZ 121 Nordstern built for passenger carrying.
Unlike the R33 class, the control car was not suspended below the hull but directly attached to it, and formed the forward section of the elongated passenger compartment. The engines were housed in five engine cars, one pair (containing the Maybach engines) either side of the hull forward of the control car, a second pair either side of the passenger compartment and the fifth on the centreline in front of the tail surfaces. Unlike previous British airship designs, the fins and horizontal stabilisers were cantilevered structures, with no external bracing.
On 5 April it left Pulham at 07:25am bound for London. After making its appearance of the city it proceeded to Salisbury Plain, where it the ship climbed to 6,000 ft (1800 m) when she began manoeuvring trials. Starting a fast turn of 130 degrees it encountered windshear, which overstressed the rudder, damaging the top rudder and starboard elevator. This made the ship adopt a nose down attitude and rapidly lose height, but it was brought under control at around 3,000 feet . Emergency repairs were made to the damaged control surfaces and the ship limped home on her one remaining rudder and elevator, using differential engine control to help with directional control, reaching Pulham at 9.15pm.
After repairs and strengthening work she re-emerged in June for a successful series of test flights, including an endurance trial starting on 10 June which lasted nearly 30 hours, covering 734 miles (1,174 km) over land and sea.ref name=aht36/> She was also used by the Metropolitan Police for observing traffic congestion caused by the Ascot Races. Journalists and senior police representatives were entertained in great comfort on the day, and the journalists stories were dropped by parachute over Croydon airfield.
On 21 June, returning from another trial flight, she suffered damage during landing. The release of emergency ballast caused a sharp pitching up, straining the ship against the mooring line. The nearest unoccupied sheds were at Howden in Yorkshire since the Pulham sheds were holding German Zeppelins handed over as war reparations. The wind increased and it was decided that the LZ 109 (L 64) would have to be sacrificed to save the R36. Within 4 hours L 64 had been cut into pieces and cleared to give enough room for R36. Even then she was damaged by a gust of wind during the manoeuvre into the shed.
Repairs were delayed while policy on airships was reviewed because of the R38 disaster and economic conditions. In 1925 she was refurbished for an experimental flight to Egypt as part of the Imperial Airship Scheme, but calculations cast doubt on her ability to make the trip and in the light of her age and condition she was scrapped in 1926.
Data from The Airship Heritage Trust
- Crew: 28
- Capacity: 50 passengers
- Length: 675 ft 0 in (206 m)
- Diameter: 78 ft 6 in (23.9 m)
- Height: 91 ft 7 in ( m)
- Volume: 2,101,000 ft3 (59,500 m3)
- Powerplant: 3 × Sunbeam Cossack, 350 hp (260 kW) each
- 2 × Maybach, 260 hp (190 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 65 mph (105 km/h)
- Range: longest flight, 734 miles (1181 km)
- Endurance: 29 hours 54 min
- Service ceiling: highest attained, 6000 ft (1829 m)
- Lord Ventry and Eugene Kolesnik,Airship saga: The history of airships seen through the eyes of the men who designed, built, and flew them , 1982, ISBN 0-7137-1001-2
- Manfred Griehl and Joachim Dressel, Zeppelin! The German Airship Story, 1990 ISBN 1-85409-045-3
- Ces Mowthorpe, Battlebags: British Airships of the First World War, 1995 ISBN 0-905778-13-8
- Lord Ventry and Eugene Kolesnik, Jane's Pocket Book 7 – Airship Development, 1976 ISBN 0-356-04656-7
- The Airship Heritage Trust R36 Page