New photographs of the world’s longest aircraft were made public yesterday ahead of its official unveiling and first UK test flight. They show the Airlander 10 — part plane, part airship and part helicopter. The aircraft is 302ft (92m) long, which is about 60ft (18m) longer than the biggest airliners. The British firm Hybrid Air vehicles (HAV) have designed the craft to stay airborne for up to three weeks using helium and the vessel is able to travel at a speed of 92mph.
HAV will unveil the Airlander 10, standing at 26m high and 44m wide, in a First World War aircraft hangar in Bedfordshire today and it will undergo its first test flight in a few weeks’ time. It was first developed in 2009 for the US government as a long-endurance surveillance aircraft but its manufacture was hindered by defence cut-backs. HAV says the vessel, which is silent and emits no pollution, could be the future for air travel.
HAV believe the airship, which cost £25m to build, could be used for a host of functions including surveillance, communications, delivering aid and even passenger travel. It is hoped the Airlander 10 will eventually be developed to be able to transport 50 tonnes of freight. As it is heavier than air, the aircraft is able to land without tethers on a variety of surfaces, including water and ice. The firm is hoping to build 12 Airlanders a year by 2018, some as passenger aircraft that will carry up to 48 people at a time.
Chris Daniels, Head of Partnerships at HAV, said: “We will not compete with a 747 flying across the Atlantic, but we can offer the ultimate flight experience for tourism and leisure purposes. “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.”