F-WGGM

Name: Big Bugger

Type: Colt AS-261 Airship

Serial No: 1380

First flown: 1989

Notes: This Airship was used in the South American rain forest to study the life in the upper canopy, using an inflatable raft to walk on the tree tops.They had already tried a balloon, but it was a one way trip, the balloon could not return and pick up the raft. Plans to build an airship finally came to fruition in the spring of 1989, with the help of sponsorship from a consortium of Japanese companies collectively named ‘Sankinkai’. In return, the consortium had exclusive rights to produce a film, which would go on show to the public at a grand exposition in Osaka entitled ‘Man and the Natural Environment’.
Most airships are filled with helium and kept permanently inflated, but this was clearly impracticable at a remote site in the rainforest. Instead the airship would have to be filled with hot air. Thunder and Colt, a company based in Oswestry, in Britain, designed and built an airship holding 7500 cubic metres of hot air – the largest ever attempted. Ebersolt’s company in Paris contributed a new, larger raft.
Successful test flying took place in May 1989 and everything was set for a five-month expedition to Brazil and Peru, beginning in July. There could hardly be anything more innocuous than a gentle airship with a cargo of botanists, but the expedition went awry. The Peruvian leg of the trip was abandoned because of guerrilla activities at the location of the proposed camp site, and the Brazilian component was thwarted by bureaucracy. At the end of August, the entire expedition was asked to leave the country. All equipment was shipped via Belem to Cayenne in French Guiana, where no more troubles were encountered. (New Scientist 2 Feb 1991)
Withdrawn from use and donated to the BBM&L

Credit: BBM&L

History

25 January 1989

Thunder & Colt Ltd. (as G-BPLD)

1 May 1991

(approx date) Air Media

28 May 1991

Reserved as F-GHRI but possibly never taken up

13 June 1991

Cancelled as sold in France. To F-WGGM