Airship Feasibility Study from 1978

Friday, February 26, 2016 0 comments

Commissioned by the Province of Alberta!

This is a fascinating document that I found on the Internet Archives.
The Alberta Modern Airship Study was prepared for the Alberta Ministry of Transportation by the Goodyear Aerospace Corporation.

The study examines the realistic feasibility of using modern airships for transportation in Alberta. We had then, and still have today, large areas of the province that have narrow road access if they have access at all.

This study is packed with analyses, graphs, charts, and the technical feasibility of using airships.

Amazingly the study concluded that such use actually made sense!

Here is the conclusion (Spoiler Warning!)

The survey and ensuing economic case studies indicate that there are a large number of economically attractive applications for airships in the study area. It is apparent from the surveys and economic case studies that an airship operating company [rental service] is both necessary and economically viable.
The operation of airships within Canada is operationally a viable concept. Environmental factors, while severe in terms of cold, will not appreciably affect airship operations any differently than existing aircraft operating in Canada
The technology is available to successfully provide vehicles in the near term. Final definition of the vehicles can proceed immediately. Demonstration vehicles are needed to illustrate:
1) A lack of technical and operational risk to users
2) Economic viability
3) Regulatory agency compliance; and
4) To develop user awareness and confidence it is conservatively estimated that the following vehicle configurations and quantities could be supported by the study area :
Modern Conventional [Non-Rigid]       8 Vehicles
Modern Conventional [Rigid]               2 Vehicles
Heavy Lift                                            6 Vehicles

The earliest operational availability for the configurations considered during the study is:
Modern Conventional [Non-Rigid]       3 Years
Modern Conventional [Rigid]               8 Years
Heavy Lift Airship                                5 Years   

As in the case of the modern conventional non-rigid airships there appear to be two sizes of HLA vehicles having near-term applicability. An HLA with a useful load of 45,372 kg [50 tons] would find primary application in some remote construction activities, power line transmission tower erection, and the forest industry. The largest market in the study area for the HLA is probably in the 90,744 kg [100-ton] useful load range. The device would be used primarily in supporting large remote construction projects.
An excellent read and even though Goodyear obviously had a vested interest in selling Airships (they were the only ones making them in the 70s) they still covered all the bases.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Role Play Serial Story from the Messdeck Part VIII

Saturday, February 20, 2016 0 comments

A package arrives.

Here is the next part of the serialized tale from our role play group "The Messdeck".

You can start from the beginning here.
Previously Lt Cmdr Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (Max) and his crew aboard the aged HMAS Doris have arrived at Davaar, the manor of their shipmate Doctor Christine Pearse, the Duchess of Argylle. They are on their way to the remote Naval Airship base at Scapa Flow in the dead of Winter. After their icy flight Max and the crew were enjoying the warm hospitality of the good Doctor when they discover they are being tracked by small mechanical spy bugs.

After scrambling to catch as many of the bugs as they can, Corporal Cooke has succeeded in blocking the bug's transmissions and has disabled them with his signals gear. He has determined that the controller for the bugs cannot be very far away in the darkening Winter sky.

Frozen Sky
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Collected and edited by Kevin Jepson 
What follows is a slightly edited transcript of the role playing we did for our visit to the Manor at Davaar.
Christine Pearse, Duchess of Argylle,  is watching as Cooke and Miss BB examine the still forms of the mechanical bugs. She asks Max, "Who, pray tell, is Barbesley? I'd like to pay a call and leave him a little something to remember me by, since he was so kind as to invade my home."

Max says, "He were an old mate of mine actually. Works for Admiral Chicheley now and just happened to be at York when we was. To much of a coincidence that is!"

Christine's eyes narrow. "I agree, but not above the Admiral, it seems just like her style. And they've got a bloody lot of nerve even thinking of coming here after what happened last time!"

Max calls to Iveta who is looking along the edge of the book case for any bugs that might have settled there, "Lt Baleva, go and see if you can spot anything nearby."

"Aye Sir." As Iveta goes outside she sees Fraser walking around the airship, rifle ready. She stops and scans the sky. With eyes accustomed to reading shifting horizons, she hopes she can spot any anomalies on the ground or in the air. There is a faint buzzing sound in the cold darkness.

Simpson checking the underside of the cargo car stops and listens. "Eer! I know that sound!" and he sprints off towards the manor door.

Sgt Fraser sees Iveta as he comes around the Doris' control car. "I can hear something Ma'am but can't see anything, we all good inside?"

"They've disabled all the bugs but the spies are still waiting for us." Iveta says still watching the sky. "They're here somewhere, and close, likely aloft."

Simpson runs up to the Marine and Iveta. Touching his cap to the Lt he says, "You're unlikely to see anything Ma'am that be a Navy cloaked ship by its sound."

"Navy ship?" asks Iveta.

Simpson looking up into the sky at the faint sound says, "Aye Ma'am. I recognize it, only heard it twice before, at the EAD and here during the Battle!"

Fraser stiffens and says, "A cloaked ship? Blast! Need something special for this!" He heads over to the trunk he and Cooke left by the door.

Miss BB has opened the parlour window and is watching the sky intently when she suddenly points over the dark mass of the Doris. "Look, over there. It's one of those weird cloud things that we saw before."

Iveta follows where Miss BB is pointing and spots the faint shimmer in the darkness. "Ah, good work Miss BB. I believe you're right, Simpson."

*Miss BB turns back from the window.*

"What did you see Lt?" asks Max.

Miss BB says, "A cloud ship... Sir, like we saw last time."

"Doctor, do you have a ray gun? I would shoot it if you have one." she asks Christine hopefully.

"I'm afraid I don't Miss BB or I'd be using it to probe a certain Mr. Barbesley as we speak." says Christine with a growl.

Miss BB says, "Ya, that would be a good use for a probe."

Christine turns to Max and says, "Do we have another battle on our hands, Commander?"

Max says "I bloody well hope not Ma'am. The problem is these fellows are supposedly on our side!"

*They join the rest of the crew in the courtyard.*

Simpson touches his cap to Max. "Cloaked Navy Ship Sir, moving slowly from the sound of it."

Miss BB mutters, "Maybe they are bad guys who stole a navy ship?"

Iveta says "The ship is moving slowly North East by East Sir, maybe 100' altitude no more, just lost sight of it over the other wall."

Fraser comes back from the trunk holding what looks like a chunk of pipe. "This will give them something to think about Sir. Will need to get outside the gate to get a clear shot"

"Carry on Sgt." says Max.

"Aye Sir." Sgt Fraser with his Pipe heads out the Courtyard gate followed by Miss BB.

Christine says, "Ladies and gentlemen, for what it's worth, Davaar does have suitable armaments for you, should you require them. After our last uninvited guests, I thought it would be a suitable precaution to take."

Aboard the creeping cloaked Airship Lt. Barbesley orders, "Release cargo." A crate, heather-painted to match its landing site, drifts to the earth beneath a small parachute no more visible than a wisp of fog.

Below looking at the shimmering spot from just outside the gate Miss BB says, "They are dropping something!"

"I see it Ma'am" and Sgt Fraser raises the tube to his shoulder.

Fraser fires the "Pipe" and with a whoosh a small rocket takes off towards where the ship is, when it gets close it explodes into a bright ball, a miniature sun at night.

Miss BB claps her hands with delight. "Ray gun! Yay!", then blinking in the flash says, "Bright ray gun, must remember not to look next time."

As the intense brightness in the control car fades enough for them to see again, Lt Barbesly orders "Helm forward 1/4 speed. Cargo pod, prepare second release." Creeping along closer to the ground, ever further from the bounds of Davaar, a second tiny package drifts down. The airship, quickly speeds up, rising over a low hill, and is lost to view.

*Fraser drops the empty pipe and grabs his rifle.  He and Miss BB head back in through the gate.*

"It dropped something Sir.  That flare shot was only meant to scare it off, don't want to get hung for shooting down one of our own eh?"

Max laughs "Ha! Serve them right to run afoul of one of Briggs' toys!"[1]

"I'd like to go see if I can find the thing they dropped Sir."

"Carry on Sgt. but be damn careful with anything you find!" says Max.

"Aye Aye Sir! Briggs would have me head if I went and did something stupid now." says Fraser with a laugh.

Miss BB says "I'll go."

"I shall join you as well." says Iveta. "Where are the weapons, Doctor? I'd like to go prepared. One takes a different sort of weapon to tea than on a scouting mission."

Christine says "They are in the Library...follow me."

As Miss BB starts to follow the Navigator and the Doctor back into the Manor, Fraser points to the open trunk, "There is a rifle or pistol in there you can use Ma'am."

BB grabs what looks like a shotgun. "Ah, this should do."

Cpl Cooke looks out the window. "Sir, I'll stay here and keep monitoring for anything else."

"Thank you Corporal." Max says.

"Do you think we will have to run Sgt?" asks Miss BB. "If we have to run then I have to take off my skirt. That should be OK right? It's a horrible heavy warm skirt. I hate it."

"I don't know Ma'am." says Fraser, suppressing a smile, "but it is best to be prepared just in case."

*Shouldering his rifle the Marine Sgt heads out the gate.*

"OK" says Miss BB and neatly steps out of her horrible heavy hateful hot skirt. Her bloomers are grey wool, and quite ugly.

The Doctor returning to the courtyard with Iveta spots Miss BB standing in her bloomers. "We really need to see about getting Mr. Worth to design some uniforms." she says with a smile.

The airship, having risen into a low cloud bank, keeps moving, but its cloaking begins to flicker, revealing the black underneath. "Good thing we got clear when we did, sir," says the cloaking tech. "That idiot's flare singed our whiskers something fierce. I'll have to swap out some resistors in flight, if you can keep us out of line of sight long enough."

"Very well. Helm, course for Carlyle base," orders the Lt. "We'll set down there for the night and pick them up when they move on."

Part IX is here.
[1] Sgt Major Briggs has a fondness for experimental weapons.

How would you save the Titanic?

Sunday, February 7, 2016 0 comments

Pie in the Sky Project

This one is a thought experiment.

I watched James Cameron's Titanic the other night.
(Yes I cried. Shut up!)

1997 seems like a long time ago, sigh.

As always when I read about the sinking, or see the movies, I am struck by the apparent docility with which the crew and passengers went to their fates in the icy North Atlantic.

With the exception of the children aboard, everyone else had been born and raised during the Victorian era. They had watched massive technological changes being made at a speed unmatched even in today's world. Of the 2224 people aboard on that fateful night there were well educated people, craftsmen, engineers, labourers, sailors, mechanics, domestic servants, business men and farmers. They came from all over Europe, America, and the British isles. Everyone had skills, ideas, hands, and a desperate desire to survive.

So why didn't anybody do anything to help stop the ship from sinking?

I remember reading the transcript of the American hearings held shortly after the sinking*. One of the surviving crewmen was an ex Royal Navy sailor who was amazed that nothing was done to try to stop the inrush of water. Obviously damage control was high on the list of things a Royal Navy sailor would be trained in.

In Cameron's movie the Captain makes a suggestion of opening the watertight doors to help the pumps and is told by the designer that it would only buy a "little more time" and that the sinking was inevitable.

A little more time is better than nothing right?

So here is the project.

Assuming you could convince the passengers and crew to follow your ideas, how would you save the ship? And If you can't save her, how could you buy enough time such that the S.S. Carpathia, when she arrived at 4:00am, could save most of the passengers.

This is the ultimate Escape Room game.

All you have is what is aboard the ship, and your knowledge of what is happening below decks.  This is important since we know more today about how she sank than the crew on board did at the time.

Still an interesting project no?

Here is a video of the sinking from National Geographic. Showing the current ideas of how she sank.

I'll start it off by examining the Captain's suggestion from the movie.

We know that the ultimate problem was that as the breached forward compartments flooded they forced the bow down allowing the water to flow over the too low tops of the water tight bulkheads into the next unflooded compartments. The designer was correct, that as a result the sinking was inevitable.

However, the Captain's suggestion is actually a good one. By judiciously opening the watertight doors in the bulkheads the water levels in the flooded compartments would equalize a bit, but more importantly the angle of the ship would be less steep. This coupled with the pumps would slow the over-topping of the bulkheads. Also since the seas were perfectly flat, allowing the ship to settle more slowly would give the passengers and crew more time out of the water. It would also make it easier to try something else, anything else, without having everything crashing forward on the increasingly steep decks.

Interestingly Royal Navy captains did this during WWI.

One of the biggest risks to a warship if she was torpedoed was capsizing as the compartments on the damaged side of the ship flooded. A capsize was the worst case as it instantly trapped the crew below decks! Captains would order what was known as "counter flooding", intentionally flooding undamaged compartments on the opposite side to keep the ship on a more even keel. The idea was that even if the ship sank as a result of the flooding, she would do so upright, thus allowing the crew more time to get out of the ship and into the boats or the water.

In the conditions in which the Titanic sank the Captain's suggestion above makes good sense.


You find yourself on the bridge of the R.M.S. Titanic at 11:45 pm on April 14, 1912. The mighty ship's engines have stopped, her watertight doors are closed and her Captain has ordered the ship's officers to give him a damage report. Astern you can faintly see the ghostly shape of the iceberg that has doomed the ship on whose bridge you now stand. It is a still, perfectly calm, but very cold night in the North Atlantic, and unless you can come up with something, two hours and forty minutes from now you will be struggling in the icy water with more than 1500 of your fellow passengers. 

Unlike everyone else aboard, you know what is happening and what will happen.

What is your plan?

Keep your sightglass full your firebox trimmed and your water... er... life belt tied. 

*The Titanic Disaster Hearings: The Official Transcripts of the 1912 Senate Investigation. A fascinating and scary read, which I highly recommend if you are interested in the history of that tragedy.

Here is a great chronology of all the recorded events on board from the survivors accounts.

There is a PDF file of the chronology here. 

Update Feb 12 2016: If you are interested in a kind of macabre time frame in which to work on your plan check out this video of the sinking in real time!


Friday, February 5, 2016 0 comments

A longing for the past.

 “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." –L.P. Hartley

I have a macabre fascination with moving images of the past. All these people going about their lives. Living in a world we can never know.

These old videos are full of ghosts because anything filmed more than 100 years ago contains images of people who are now dead.

This video from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows describes this feeling perfectly.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

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