21 February 1916 – Airshiplane

Attempts to combat the Zeppelin raids have been mostly unsuccessful due to the low climb rate of most aircraft and the difficulties in getting aircraft off quickly. For the last few months Neville Usborne, Inspector Commander of Airships at the Admiralty and Squadron Commander De Courcy Wyndor Plunkett Ireland have been working on developing a method of suspending a B.E.2c from an airship. The idea is that the airship would be able to patrol at altitude only releasing the aeroplane once a Zeppelin is spotted.

The airshiplane

Some preliminary trials were made in August 1915 by Flight Commander W C Hicks, but today, Usborne and Ireland took off from RNAS Kingsnorth to test the invention. Unfortunately the experiment ended in disaster.

They had reached a height of 4,000 ft when a loss of pressure in the airship caused it to buckle. This caused the forward suspension cable holding the aircraft to snap. The rear cables were then overloaded and also failed, throwing the aircraft into a sideslip and then flipping it over. Ireland was thrown out and fell into the River Medway and drowned. Neville crashed with the aircraft in Strood station goods yard. Both men were killed.

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