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Air Commodore Edward Maitland


Edward Maitland, who was born in Little Shelford, was on the first east/west airship flight across the Atlantic in 1919,  weeks after the first transatlantic aeroplane flight. 


Maitland can be seen below at the window of the airship Airship R34.


R34 had never been intended as a passenger carrier and extra accommodation was arranged by slinging hammocks in the keel walkway. A plate was allegedly welded to an engine exhaust pipe to allow the preparation of hot food.

R34 left Britain on 2 July 1919 and arrived at Mineola, Long Island, United States, on 6 July after a flight of 108 hours with virtually no fuel left. Footage still exists of the R34 landing in the United States.  


But that is only part of Edward’s story. He was a real daredevil.


Air Commodore Edward Maitland was born in Little Shelford in 1880.


Edward took up ballooning in 1908. In November 1908, he flew in a balloon named the Mammoth from Crystal Palace in England to Meeki Derevi in Russia. The distance of 1,117 miles was covered in 36 hours.


From 1909 Maitland was attached to the Balloon School at Farnborough Airfield.

He was involved with what the media described as  “One of the most daring sensational feats during the war.” 


Balloons were used by both sides in the first world war. There was a British military project about how a balloonist could safely get out of a balloon at height.


In 1915, there was a debate about how someone could jump safely 14,000 feet from an airship using a parachute. It was something that had never been done before from such a height.


Step forward Edward Maitland. “I will make the jump myself as there is only one person I have the right to ask,” said Maitland.


And jump he did, in a descent that lasted 15 minutes. He described the jump as "rather trying."


In 1914, when the Army airships were transferred to the Navy, Maitland transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service.

In April 1918, with the merger of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, Maitland transferred to the Royal Air Force. He was subsequently promoted to Air Commodore.

On 1921 Maitland was killed when the R38 airship on which he was a passenger suffered structural failure and broke up over the River Humber. He was buried in Hull.


Information supplied by David Jones.

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