Airlander 10: world’s largest aircraft evolves into commercial design
The Airlander 10 prototype is being withdrawn as the company that designed it moves towards building a production model of what was the largest flying machine in the world.
The 92-meter-long (302-foot) machine, also known as the “Flying Bum” for its butt-shaped front end, completed six test flights in its time, some more successful than others.
Today, the UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) says it is ready to “rethink the skies” with a similarly designed production model it wants to have ready within six years.
HAV boss Stephen McGlennan said the Guardian the prototype had now “fulfilled its role as the world’s first full-size hybrid aircraft”, confirming at the same time that there are no plans to fly the prototype again.
He said the focus was now on “bringing into service the first batch of production standard-type certified Airlander 10 aircraft” for customers which could include companies involved in leisure travel, travel tours. passengers, surveillance work, freight transport and aid delivery.
There is no news on the design details of the production model just yet, but the prototype offers clear clues as to what to expect. The retired machine was part an airplane and part an airship, and used helium for the elevator, while four turbocharged diesel engines gave it a top speed of 90 mph. It could fly at an altitude of nearly 5,000 meters (about 16,000 feet) and stay in the air for up to two weeks.
In total, the Airlander 10 prototype completed six test flights in its time, although there were several incidents along the way. Just days after successfully completing a first test flight in August 2016, a video of the airship-shaped machine showed it slowly nose-down as it arrived to land at the end of a subsequent sortie. Both pilots emerged unharmed from what HAV described as “a hard landing”. In another incident in November 2017, the Airlander broke free from its mooring mast before tearing apart. Two people were slightly injured.
“We are testing a whole new type of aircraft and incidents of this nature can occur during this phase of development,” HAV said at the time. Indeed, McGlennan said her company was now ready to make the most of everything she learned as she set out to design “a new generation of hyper-efficient aircraft.” It is not yet clear whether it will retain the appearance of its distinctive front end.
One thing is certain, however. Aviation fans around the world will be eager to see what it comes up with.