Watch drone footage of Airship 101 - which flew over Bedford town centre on Sunday

The airship stopped off at Cardington

By Laura Hutchinson
Monday, 24th January 2022, 1:17 pm
Updated Monday, 24th January 2022, 2:10 pm

Crowds of people gathered to watch the Airship 101 as it flew over Bedford town centre.

Bobby Frankham and his airship could be seen flying above the town centre on Sunday (January 24) - after setting off from Santa Pod.

After a refuel at Cardington Hangers, they headed back over Bedford.

The airship over Cardington Sheds.

And it certainly drew a crowd, with people coming out to witness the event.

Oliver Downing and Future Vision Drone Services captured this footage of the airship at Cardington.

Elaine Midgley, Director of Bedford Creative Arts said, “It was so good to see an airship over Bedford town centre once again. It has been many years since the last airship flew over. We were thrilled to see it over The Higgins where the airship exhibition is until the end of March.

"We must say thanks to Bobby and his team for making this happen. Also, a big thank you to the Bedford residents who took photos, videos and used the airshipdreams hashtag too.”

Bobby Frankham, airship owner said, “The flight was amazing. My crew followed me to fit new gas tanks after each hour. We made four stops and at one point they could not keep up because of other people following me too.

"My crew are important to me and also my friends who were watching the weather before and during the flight.

“As airships are very delicate, the cloud was 1300 foot and I needed to fly at 1200 foot legally over Bedford, the wind was coming from Stewartby direction at 8mph so blowing on my right hand side but we were very lucky on the day, as it did not get windy the higher, we went.

"Otherwise, I would have run out of rudder authority and got blown toward Thurleigh.

"Once over Bedford I then could see the sheds and there was a crowd, waving. We circled and landed, I turned off the engine as I needed more petrol also. The crowd came up to talk to us, and we met people who had worked at the site many years ago.

“They said how lovely on a damp miserable January day to see something making everyone smile again. I will do some more flights when it’s sunny and the fields are dry at the sheds and over Bedford but not with a cross wind, next time! We landed earlier than scheduled at Little Staughton and the St. John’s Arms pub at Melbourne - who had finished serving - stayed open for our 18 crew members to eat. So, a big thank you to them too.”

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Former Bedfordshire Times news editor Mike Marshall-Hollingsworth said Bedford Today's coverage of the flight brought back memories of the town's long association with airships.

He said: "It’s several years since the huge Airlander airship crashed on landing during flight trials, prompting the move of the company away from Cardington.

"The most famous Airship built and flown from there was, of course, the gigantic R101 which crashed during a storm over France in 1930 en route to India, killing most of the passengers and including the British air minister.

"Quite coincidental to today’s flight is the fact that 2022 Is the 50th anniversary of the very first airship flight from Cardington since the R101 tragedy…that of the Goodyear Blimp that was built in one of the hangars and completed flight testing from the base. I was news editor of the Bedfordshire Times then and remember it well as I was on the first passenger flight together with a handful of other “locals” including, I recall, the then Mayor. I still have my commemorative tie clip somewhere.

"An even more vivid memory is that the blimp broke from its moorings in a storm (it was being filmed for BBC’s Blue Peter programme at the time) shortly before its scheduled first flight and ended up scattered all over the A6 at Cotton End.

"Adding to the co-incidences, I did my National Service in the RAF at Cardington, met and married a local girl, now sadly no longer with us, and I’m still living in Haynes."

The flight was a celebration of the final weeks of the Airships Dreams Escaping Gravity exhibition on display at The Higgins Bedford.

The exhibition was commissioned by Bedford Creative Arts (BCA) and The Higgins to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the last flight of the R101 airship from Cardington on October 4, 1930.

Sadly, due to Covid-19 the exhibition was delayed and launched belatedly on July 10, 2021. The community co-curated exhibition is open until March 20, so there is still time to attend and learn more about airships.

To find out more please visit www.airshipdreams.com. Too see more footage of the fight please follow Airship 101 on Facebook