The Airlander 10 was flown for the first time on August 17, 2016 over central England, and is believed to be the largest aircraft ever flown. The aircraft combines characteristics of airplanes, helicopters and airships, in an effort to ensure that it functions as efficiently as possible. Its manufacturer, Hybrid Air Vehicles, originally designed the aircraft to fulfill military surveillance in Afghanistan, but reprogrammed it when this project was abandoned in 2013.The company believes that the Airlander 10 will be able to serve in other areas including cargo transportation, communication, private commerce and even as a luxury airliner. In addition, it will also be significantly less harmful to the environment, because it uses helium instead of hydrogen to fuel its journeys.
Nicknamed the ‘Flying Bum,’ because of its shape, the Airlander 10 is 92m, with a height of 6100m, and can attain speeds of 90mph. The aircraft is able to remain airborne for up to 5 days when it is manned, and 10 days if unoccupied. It can carry a maximum weight of 10 tons. Hybrid Air Vehicles aims to use it to revolutionize the industry of flying both commercially and militarily. As a result of being a hybrid, the aircraft uses a traditional airplane wing structure to get 40% of its lift with the other 60% coming from the helium.
An aircraft that can be flown for an extended period, land anywhere and doesn’t have an overwhelmingly negative effect on the environment, provides great potential for the future of flying. The company plans to release the Airlander 10 as a commercial vehicle that can be used as an advertisement and communication medium, in private sector transportation and in other areas where it will have a significant advantage over ordinary aircraft. Some of these advantages include:
- Endurance – The ability to stay in the air for weeks at a time, would allow an easier delivery of goods and longer surveillance periods than are currently available.
- Cost Effective – The running costs of the Airlander would be lower than other aircrafts because it runs on helium, instead of fuel.
- Less Pollution – The Airlander 10 has one of the lowest forms of carbon emissions of any aircraft currently being flown.
- More Accessibility – The aircraft can be landed anywhere, including land, water and even ice, opening up the possibility of air transfer to previously inaccessible areas.
Hybrid Air Vehicles has presented the Airlander 10 as the first in a series of super aircraft, which will be made to carry even heavier cargo and achieve more extraordinary flight times.