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Dirigible No 1
Role Semi-rigid airship
Manufacturer Royal Engineers
Designer Col. John Capper and Samuel Cody
First flight 10 September 1907
Number built 1

British Army Dirigible No 1, christened Nulli Secundus (Latin: "Second to none") was a Semi-rigid airship. First flown on 10 September 1907, it was Britain's first powered military aircraft.

Design[edit | edit source]

Built at the Army's Balloon Factory at Farnborough, the early design work was carried out by Colonel James Templer, and it was completed by Colonel John Capper of the Royal Engineers and Samuel Cody, who was mainly responsible for developing the steering gear and power installation.[1] It had a cylindrical envelope constructed from goldbeater's skin without internal ballonets,[2] from which a long triangular-section framework of steel tubing was suspended by four silk bands. The control surfaces, consisting of a rudder and elevators at the rear, a pair of large elevators amidships and a further pair at the front, were attached to this framework, and a small gondola containing the crew and power installation suspended beneath it. It was powered by a 50 hp (37 kW) Antoinette engine driving a pair of two-bladed aluminium propellers via leather belts.[3]

Operational history[edit | edit source]

Nulli Secundus was first flown on 10 September 1907 at Farnborough, with Capper at the controls assisted by Cody and Captain King. Two flights were made: during the first the airship was flown for around three miles at a height of about 200 ft (60 m), the flight being terminated by an engine fault. A second flight was made later in the day, the propeller blades having been reduced in area in order to increase their speed of revolution.[4]

A more public appearance was made on 5 October when she flew from Farnborough to London. Taking off at 11:00 pm and crewed by Capper, Cody and Lietenant Waterlow, she completed a tour over the city taking in Whitehall and Buckingham Palace, and after circling St Paul's Cathedral they attempted to return to Farnborough, but 18 mph (29 km/h) headwinds forced them to land at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham.[5] The flight had lasted for 3 hours and 25 minutes and covered 50 miles (80 km) overland.[1] On 10 October, still moored at Crystal Palace to avoid damage in high winds, she was buffeted so severely that some of the guy ropes tore free. Hydrogen was released through escape valves and a slit was made in the envelope to speed up the process. Deflated and partially dismantled, the remains were taken back to Farnborough where it was rebuilt with alterations to become Nulli Secundus II.

Nulli Secundus II[edit | edit source]

Nulli Secundus II being walked out of its shed

After reconstruction, involving modifications to the control surfaces and gondola and an enlargement of the envelope to 84,768 ft3 (2400 m3)[6] Nulli Secundus II was flown on 24 July 1908 in front of a crowd of several thousand people including General Smith-Dorrien, Charles Rolls and Frank Hedges Butler. [7] After this Nulli Secundus II made only one other flight, with the purpose of training Navy personnel. It was then scrapped,[2] its engine being used to power Cody's British Army Aeroplane No. 1.

Specifications (Nulli Secundus I)[edit | edit source]

General characteristics

  • Length: 120 ft 0 in (36.59 m)
  • Diameter: 26 ft 0 in (7.93 m)
  • Volume: 55,000 ft3 (1,557 m3)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Antoinette water cooled V-8 piston engine, 50 hp (37 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 40 mph (64 km/h)

References[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Pioneering Years". Museum of Army Flying. http://www.armyflying.com/the-history-of-army-flying/the-pioneering-years-1878-191/. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Higham, Robin (1961) The British Rigid Airship, 1908-1931 Henley-on-Thames: Foulis. p. 13.
  3. Airship PioneersFlight 9 November 1916, p. 979.
  4. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 11 September 1907. 
  5. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 7 October 1907. 
  6. Present Status of Military AeronauticsFlight: 13 March 1909, p. 149.
  7. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 25 July 1908. 

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions. pp. 213. 

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