Todayâ€™s commercial pilots are well equipped to detect and fly over or around meteorological obstacles such as thunderstorms that lie in their path, so that as passengers behind we are rarely troubled by them. But imagine if you were flying in an airship of the 1920s instead. We recently added to the BL Collection a map designed for just that â€“ Map showing the frequency of thunderstorms during the month of June on the England-Egypt section of the England-India airship route.
The map was made at the British War Office in 1926 and is a product of the Imperial Airship Scheme, a Government initiative of the 1920s to create a commercial airship route between Britain and the furthest parts of the Empire. The sheet shows three alternative routes for comparison, concluding that the most western and southerly of the three is the least likely to encounter difficulty.
The thought of negotiating thunderstorms at all in an England-India airship is frankly terrifying, and despite the careful planning evidenced by this sheet, the initiative came to a tragic end when one of the airships designed to fly the route crashed in France on its maiden voyage overseas in 1930.
Far more re-assuring is this recent donation to the BL. The Pilotsâ€™ Free Flight Atlas - Eastern Hemisphere, is a colourful collection of topographical mapping of Europe, South-East Asia and the Middle East overlaid with aeronautical information â€“ radio beacons, airspace reservations, waypoints, airfields and runway lengthsâ€¦
A number of thematic pages include political maps, a star chart and a sheet entitled Climate/Winds in Europe, North Africa, Middle East showing the main wind directions and strengths in January and in July alongside bar charts giving precipitation and temperature data for selected locations throughout the year.
Detail of â€˜Climate/Winds in Europe, North Africa, Middle Eastâ€™ Maps 2019.a.24. page 8
Not being an aviation expert I donâ€™t know the frequency with which commercial pilots might turn to this volume in-flight, but as a layman I am re-assured by the detailed information it provides, and the calm and efficient manner in which it is conveyed on backgrounds of natural greens and blues. Not to mention the section on Dos and Donâ€™ts during Thunderstorm Avoidance â€“ â€˜Avoiding thunderstorms is the best policyâ€™ remains as true as ever.
Project Manager, Modern Maps