Historical airship flight to take place over the skies of Bedford this weekend

This Sunday Bedfordians will have a chance to think back to the halcyon days when Bedford was the home of airships as a special flight will pass over the town centre.

On 23 January, the team from Team Airship101 will fly their thermal airship from Santa Pod to Cardington, and we’re all being encouraged to come out and greet the team with a wave as they fly over the town.

It’ll appear over Bedford town centre and past Cardington between 12-2pm, subject to good weather.

The flight is to celebrate the final weeks of the Airships Dreams Escaping Gravity exhibition which has been on display at The Higgins Bedford since July

Read: Immerse yourself in the Higgins Bedford’s new exhibition: Airship Dreams

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 4 October 1930.

The exhibition started by featuring a new immersive digital artwork, alongside artefacts relating to Bedford’s airship heritage and the Cardington Sheds.

Bedfordians were also invited to share their airship memories for the exhibition and, while the digital artwork has now been packed away ready for national touring, the community co-curated exhibition stays open until 23 March 2022.

The exhibition, co-curated with the community has revealed the treasures of some local collectors of airship history.

Den Burchmore, the former curator for the Airship Heritage Trust, whose private collection is recreated in the exhibition, and Bobby Frankham a collector of airships themselves.

Bobby recently purchased the Airship101, restored it, and it’s now ready to fly regularly.

After completing its test flights its first longer flight will be across Bedford making it the first airship to fly over the town for many years.

“Eight years ago I was asked, with a few select others from the Lemmings Paramotor Club, to fly at the Isle of Sheppey,” said Bobby.

“It was for the unveiling of a statue of the Short brothers who made the first powered flight in England in 1909.

“A spitfire was also doing a display, I was so excited and thought it doesn’t get much better than this… until now, I’ve been asked to fly my airship over the centre of Bedford to celebrate the Airships Dreams Escaping Gravity.”

Bobby Frankham and the Team R101 crew flying their airship

Bobby hopes to fly over Shortstown and Cardington where the R101 airship was built.

The R101 needed 400 ground crew and 42 crew on board but Bobby won’t need as many people to help.

“My airship is not so big just 120,000 cu ft compared to 5,000,000 cu ft but it all needs putting back in a bag at the end before we go to the pub.”

Elaine Midgley, Director of Bedford Creative Arts added, “When we first started the project we had dreamed of flying an airship over Bedford town centre and recreating some of the iconic photographs and memories that had been shared by residents who remember the days when seeing skyships and blimps on the horizon at Cardington was a common sight.

“We’re glad that the Airship101 is now able to fly and grateful to Bobby and his team for offering to do a flight for us. We really hope residents enjoy watching it fly and come out to wave Bobby on and take their own photographs and make new memories of an airship over Bedford.”

Videos and photographs taken from the ground and from the airship gondola will be available on BCA’s YouTube Channel and other social media channels from Monday.

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