At 260 metres long, 50 metres wide and tall, Kala Chapra (the Black Hangar) was the largest structure in the British Empire. Designed and built in 1927 as part of the British Government’s Imperial Airship Scheme, it was one of a number of airship stations that would connect the empire from Montreal in the west, to Karachi and eventually Australia in the east.

Airship Routes

Airship Routes discussed at the Imperial conference on the Future of Aerial Communications, 1926.


The British Government commissioned six R-100 airships to be built by the Air-Ministry and Vickers subsidiary the Airship Guarantee Company to operate the services, providing an alternative to the noisy, cramped aircraft of the time. The airships remain the largest man-made flying machines in history second only to Germany’s LZ129 Hindenburg.

Airship services never made it to Karachi. On its maiden voyage to India R-102 struck ground in France at 02:09 am on October 5, 1930, only hours after departing the UK. The crash killed 48 of the 54 people onboard, and brought British airship services to a premature end.