On August 17, the world’s largest aircraft – the Airlander 10, took off for its first flight over the U.K. Composites Manufacturing has covered the Airlander 10 extensively since its revitalization in 2015. The aircraft originally began its life as the HAV304 for the U.S. Army in 2010. In 2012, the HAV was deemed unfit for the Army’s needs and the ship was bought back by the U.K. After a successful crowdfunding effort, the HAV was reborn as the Airlander and was given a makeover with composite materials.
During the flight, the ship flew around Cardington Airfield for about 20 minutes at speeds up to 40 mph before landing. According to Hybrid Air Vehicles, the creator of the blimp/plane/helicopter hybrid aircraft, the flight went smoothly. Back in March, the Airlander left the ground for the first time in its hangar in preparation for last week’s flight.
“All test objectives were met during the flight,” said Hybrid Air Vehicles in a statement. “These included the safe launch, flight and landing of the Airlander 10 and a series of gentle turns at increasing speed. Some technical tests on its hull pressure were also undertaken.”
According to HAV, the aircraft is 302 feet long, weighs over 44,000 pounds, and can carry a 22,000 pound payload. The Airlander 10 gets 60 percent of its lift from internal helium gas and 40 percent from its aerodynamic form.
HAV estimates that using advanced composites instead of traditional metals for the rigid structures helped save between 50 and 60 percent total weight on the aircraft. The skin of Airlander 10’s hull is a combination of five tons of multilayered Vectran weave, Tedlar® and Mylar™ surrounding a helium bubble that provides strength and endurance. This composite construction allows the Airlander to withstand multiple lightning strikes.
According to Hybrid Air Vehicles, “The next step is to ensure the UK government runs a trial in order to demonstrate the potential of this amazing aircraft to the world and secure the lucrative exports, and grow further jobs in Bedfordshire and in the supply chain across the UK.”
To watch the Airlander 10’s first flight, watch the video below: