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The airship with the longest career and the workhorse of the British rigid airships, the R33 had a reputation of being the luckiest airship in the British rigid fleet.


In 1920, following the change in responsibility at the Admiralty to the newly formed Air Council, the RAF airships were registered as “civilian aircraft” to carry out limited programmes in the commercial field. The first to be civilianised was the R33, which for this transition period was fitted out with sleeping accommodation within the hull and cooking facilities. The R33 carried the civil identification G-FAAG on the hull sides and the large international “G” for Great Britain was emblazoned on her tail fin.


The R33, the sister ship of the R34, was built (year) at Barlow near Selby by Armstrong Whitworth and was a copy of the Germain Zeppelin L33 (the numbering was coincidental) that had been brought down with very little damage to the airship at little Wigborough, Essex in 1916. The Germain crew had attempted to destroy the ship to prevent it from falling into British hands but so little hydrogen (words about hydrogen?) was left in her gasbags that only the dope covered fabric lit when they fired signal flairs into the hull. The L33 was virtually intact and her engines were undamaged. In one stroke the British had been handed a near perfect airship full of the latest technology.


The R33 was by far the most successful British airship and was used for varying tasks including mooring tasks at Pulham (what is mooring and why at Pulham) monitoring the traffic at the Epsom races ( The Deby?) (the first “eye in the sky traffic reporting” (really?) and for carrying a biplane to be used as flight protection. A mechanism was fitted to the R33 so the biplane could be attached and detached in the air should the airship come under attack. (messy words)


The R33 flew from Howden (words about Howden) while conducting experiments to test a new design for aircraft tanks and secondly to make observations of three aerial lighthouses. (what are aerial lighthouses) Taking off from Howden at 8pm on a Thursday evening, with Captain (captain as army or Captain as on a ship) G. M. Thomas DFC in command, the aircraft climbed to a height is 1500 ft (M required) and an old Sopworth camel aircraft had been attached to  the R33 was dropped with its engine running without a pilot at the controls. It was a fact that, if an aircraft crashed, it would normally burst into flames caused by the metal fuel tanks splitting open, and? The Camel was fixed with a special fuel tank designed to make this impossible. When released the aircraft nosedived into the ground and although the fuel tank, made of rubber, was damaged there was no resulting fire. (why)


The lighthouses under observation were at Croydon (Waddon), Lympne, and Biggin Hill. (are these in the fight path from London to Paris?) The R33 arrived back at Howden at 8 am on Friday. Some of the local people saw her as she flew over at a hight os 2,500 ft M.

In 1926 the R33 was used for experiments with the carriage and release of two Gloucester Glebe fighter aircraft carried under the hull. SO what Later that year she was put in the shed at Pulham for long term storage and when metal fatigue was discovered in her framework in 1928 she was scrapped.


Was the airship experiment a failure or just the right thing at the wrong time?

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