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The world’s largest aircraft, the Airlander 10, prepares to take to the skies. The airship is 25 percent larger than a Boeing 747 and can remain in the skies for up to three weeks at a time. The airship will be launching in just a few weeks.
Airlander is 90 metres long, part plane, part airship, and is the child of the firm Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV). They’ve been working on the prototype for the best part of a decade, and if conditions are right, later this month David Burns, HAV’s chief test pilot, will be conducting its maiden test flight.
The hybridity of the Airlander comes from its unique blend of elements from three distinct types of aviation technology: helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, and the lighter-than-air airship. It sports a volume of nearly 38,000 cubic metres and can hold as much helium, which it requires for flight.
As helium is non-flammable, the Airlander will not be facing the same issues as did the infamous Zeppelin. Just for extra safety, it can even withstand bullet holes.
The Airlander 10 is considered important for the future of flight, as it can service locations and perform missions traditional aircraft simply cannot.
“We will not compete with a 747 flying across the Atlantic, but we can offer the ultimate flight experience for tourism and leisure purposes,” Chris Daniels, Head of Partnerships at HAV, told the BBC. “It’s perfect for sightseeing because we can have floor to ceiling clear panels, and we can open the windows because we are not flying as high or as fast as traditional planes, but we will not be offering a service to get from A to B as quickly as possible.”
Moreover, the Airlander could lift heavy machinery to remote areas, provide communication relays, perform surveillance missions, and facilitate academic research.
HAV is not the only company chasing the airship dream, as US defence contractor Lockheed Martin is working on their version, on which we previously reported.