Friday, July 01, 2005

Tragic Metal?

The British airship R101 was a marvel of Depression-era transportation. Powered by five diesel engines, it was designed for global flight -- and it offered attractive accommodations to monied travelers. More than 700 feet long, the R101 could transport 100 passengers in style, with berths, excellent dining and recreational quarters. What it could not offer was secure passage.

In October 1930, a year after its launch, the R101 embarked southward from Great Britain, bound for the empire’s Indian colony. Soon after lift-off, navigating over France, it was damaged in a storm, crashed and burned, killing 46.

Historians aren’t fully agreed, but some believe steel girders from the R101 were recycled and, shortly afterward, the metal was used in the building of an even more impressive airship . . . the German Hindenburg. The Hindenburg’s fiery and mysterious destruction in 1937 gave it a permanent place in infamy (although fewer lives were lost than in the previous disaster).


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