‘Flying bum’ aircraft makes successful maiden voyage

Ship was originally developed for the US army

The world’s largest aircraft, the part plane, part helicopter, part Airlander 10, has made its debut flight in Britain. The 92m helium-filled airship was purchased by UK-based aviation company Hybrid Air Vehicles in 2013.

 

The world’s largest aircraft, the part plane, part helicopter, part Airlander 10, has made its debut flight in Britain.

The airship, which has become known as “the flying bum” because of its unique structure, was purchased by UK-based aviation company Hybrid Air Vehicles in 2013.

The 92m helium-filled airship was originally developed for the US Army as a spy aircraft to hover over war zones for weeks using only a fraction of the fuel needed by conventional aircraft. However, the project fell victim to military cutbacks.

Hybrid Air hopes to attract customers, and corner the market, in areas ranging from humanitarian aid delivery to cargo shipments in hard to reach places.

The airship is a hybrid of a blimp, which maintains it shape from internal gas pressure, and a zeppelin, which has a rigid airframe. The Hybrid Air craft can carry 80 tonnes of cargo and cruise between 23 to 92 miles per hour .

The Airlander can take off and land vertically and can operate from open fields, deserts, ice or water, meaning it can operate where most conventional airplanes cannot.

Airships have a history stretching back to the 19th century, although their use was curtailed by competition from airplanes in the 20th century and high-profile accidents such as the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

Hybrid Air is a privately held company funded so far by £17.5 million pounds raised from 1,000 shareholders. It has benefited from US investment, and British and EU grants. 

- Additional reporting: Reuters

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