After being initially conceptualized as a new airborne military surveillance vehicle for the United States military, then being grounded due to defense budget cuts, then being rescued by a British company which completed the prototype, at last the largest aircraft in the world yet has embarked on its maiden test flight on Wednesday August 18 according to The Guardian.
There’s certainly no doubt about the size either; the HAV Airlander 10, with its 92-meter length and 43.5-meter width, easily beats the massive Airbus A380 “super jumbo” jet is terms of dimensions – and price as well, costing just over $32.6 million compared to the jetliner’s $375 million.
This wonder machine, which is an amalgamation of three distinctive types of aerial vehicle: part- helicopter, part-airplane and part-airship. Its great hull made of ultra-light carbon fiber is filled with 38,000 cubic meters of helium for lift, and the pressure of the gas alone is what maintains the Airlander’s shape without need of internal structures like a dirigible. The distinct contours give it a front and rear view that has led to some observers nicknaming the Airlander as the “Flying Butt”.
And what lifting power it has too. The Airlander can easily take 10 tons up in the air, similar to the US Air Force Boeing CH-47 Chinook twin-rotor helicopter. It certainly owes its initial creation and development to the world’s largest armed forces and its generous funding, only to be shelved in the light of reduced American military spending in 2013. UK-based firm Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), which built the airship for the US, then took over the entire development, paying $300,000 to buy back the Airlander, when they initially received $100 million in US funds to construct it in the first place.
To finish the vessel, HAV conducted multiple crowd-funding events earning $4.4 million, and gained assistance from the European Union and several prominent private investors like pilot Bruce Dickinson, front-man of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden.
Being primarily an airship, the Airlander has a significantly lesser amount of carbon emissions compared to conventional aircraft, and can be put to work in various jobs either as a manned vessel or as an unmanned drone. With pilot and passengers the Airlander can stay airborne for almost a week, and as a drone for two weeks. It also doesn’t need a runway to operate as it takes off and lands vertically, making it ideal for remote environments.
The HAV Airlander 10 is sure to be deployed for military use according to HAV’s CEO Stephen McGlennan, with other armed forces all over the world aside from the US expressing interest in it. Other times it can be used anywhere from pleasure air cruises to cargo transport. McGlennan is confident that within five years there could be at least 100 Airlanders in active service.
Photo Credit to www.dailymail.co.uk