The earliest test in connexion with airship towing is perhaps the most interesting one. Naval Airship No. 2 broke down about 40 m. from Farnborough, and in order to save the loss of gas and the probable damage to the ship that would have attended her deflation, she was towed home by another airship,'' Eta," of a slightly greater size. The operation presented no difficulty whatever. "Eta landed alongside the damaged ship; a wire some 600 ft. in length was laid out between the two ships; both ships were made light and allowed to rise into the air. The towing ship then went ahead slowly and towed the disabled one back to Farnborough.
Occasion for repeating this towing operation has not since presented itself, but the complete success which attended the first attempt indicates that there is no serious difficulty in connexion with it. It is probable that for certain special purposes, where large weights have to be carried and where speed is not of great importance, the towing of one or more " air barges " by an airship presents very interesting possibilities.
Various trials were made to determine the possibility of towing an airship to the scene of operations so that she should arrive there with her full supply of petrol still available. In May 1916 a Coastal airship was, after a few preliminary tests with a motor launch, towed by a light cruiser steaming at 26 knots up, down and across a wind of some 15 knots. In a further trial the airship was hauled down to the deck of the cruiser and the crew changed and gas and fuel supplied. The same operation was carried out at a height of 150 ft. to provide for occasions when the sea was too bad to allow the airship to be brought close down. These trials were entirely satisfactory.
In Aug. 1918 a ship of the S.S. class carried out extended trials in tow of a submarine. These caused no difficulty except that it was desired to make the ship capable of being towed without a crew. Arrangements for the automatic maintenance of pressure and the greater degree of stability required caused the extension to this much more difficult operation to be abandoned.
In Nov. 1918 the towing of an S.S. ship by a destroyer was again actively being developed with a view to replacing kite-balloons by airships for convoy work. In Aug. 1919 N.S.7 carried out a long towing operation with the fleet. She was in tow continuously for some 40 hrs., and was gassed and refuelled in a wind of 30 knots.
The conclusion to be drawn from these tests is that an airship can be towed without difficulty provided she is steered and handled as in flight. The towing is little relief to the crew, but the expenditure of fuel is avoided. The crew can be changed and fuel and gas can be supplied in reasonably fair weather.
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