World's biggest aircraft takes off soon

The Airlander 10 can hover above ground and fly for two weeks unmanned. Photo / Supplied
The Airlander 10 can hover above ground and fly for two weeks unmanned. Photo / Supplied

The world's largest aircraft will soon take to the skies for its first proper test flight.

Originally a US Army project, the 93m-long Airlander 10 has been described as "part plane, part helicopter" and is worth £80 million ($1.7 billion).

A British company is converting it to provide business and leisure flights, and the test flight is planned next month.

The aircraft in its hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire. Cardington, Bedfordshire
The aircraft in its hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire. Cardington, Bedfordshire

If successful, aircraft based on the Airlander 10 prototype will go into production.

The carbon-fibre aircraft has been hailed for its low pollution and noise levels and its ability to hover above a variety of surfaces, including ice, deserts and water.

The Airlander can land on deserts, ice and water. Photo / Supplied
The Airlander can land on deserts, ice and water. Photo / Supplied

It can fly for five days without refuelling and cruise unmanned for two weeks at a time with a 10-tonne cargo.

Despite these impressive credentials, it has attracted ridicule on social media due to its slight resemblance to rather large buttocks.


However, Chris Daniels of Hybrid Air Vehicles, which produces the Airlander, told the Mirror that it's unusual shape makes it aerodynamic.


A test flight was carried out in 2012, but its upcoming flight will be the first under the aircraft's latest specifications.

The date of the flight is yet to be announced, but it will be restricted to a 112km radius.

In a blog post, Hybrid Air Vehicles said a fuel module had been added to the aircraft this month, as well as the cockpit and payload bay.

It is capable of carrying a ten tonne cargo. Photo / Supplied
It is capable of carrying a ten tonne cargo. Photo / Supplied

"It's very satisfying for the team and me to get another milestone under our belts. We're hugely excited about the forthcoming Airlander first flight," said Mike Durham, Hybrid Air Vehicles' technical director.

Although the Airlander 10 is the largest aircraft in the world, bigger than the Airbus A380, it is still dwarfed by the zeppelins developed in Germany in the 1930s.

- nzherald.co.nz

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