'Flying bum' to take to the skies once more

By Natalie Paris

Part airship, part helicopter the Airlander 10 does not require a runway to take off. Photo / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Part airship, part helicopter the Airlander 10 does not require a runway to take off. Photo / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The world's largest aircraft, the Airlander 10, is ready to take to the skies again after crashing into a telegraph pole on a test flight last summer.

Affectionately known as the "flying bum", in recognition of the curves of its rear, the 92m-long plane, which is part helicopter and part airship, suffered a "hard landing" in an airfield in Bedfordshire last August. No-one was injured.

However, the $43m, blimp-like craft suffered considerable damage to its cockpit, which is larger than six double-decker buses. It has now been rebuilt meaning test flights can resume.

"The flight deck instrument panels, overhead console and all associated wiring have already been reinstalled successfully," said a spokesman for Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the British firm that owns the aircraft.

The Airlander suffered considerable damage during its first flight. Photo / Supplied
The Airlander suffered considerable damage during its first flight. Photo / Supplied

"This was aided by weeks of preparation, which allowed large sections to be moved at the same time and clipped into place. With the equipment installed, 'power-on' has been achieved and on-aircraft testing has now begun."

The aircraft was first developed for the US government as a long-endurance surveillance ship but was later neglected due to defence cutbacks and the slump in popularity of airships following the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

HAV launched a campaign to develop and fly the Airlander again. It is about 15m longer than the biggest passenger jets and uses helium to become airborne, travelling at speeds of up to 92mph.

It has no internal structure, maintaining its shape due to the pressure stabilisation of the helium inside the hull, and the smart and strong Vectran material it is made of.

It also does not require a runway, being able to take-off and land vertically, and should be able to remain airborne for about five days during manned flights.

HAV claims the aircraft could be used for a variety of functions such as surveillance, communications, delivering aid and even passenger travel.

This story originally appeared on the Daily Telegraph UK.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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