Airlander 10 completes first flight

The composites-intensive aircraft met all test objectives during the flight.

The massive Airlander 10 made its maiden flight on August 17. This marks the commencement of Airlander 10’s flight test program that is expected to last for a number of months. After this, the aircraft will begin a series of trials and demonstrations with prospective customers.

The Airlander 10 is a lighter-than-air craft designed to perform surveillance, monitoring, communications, cargo and aid delivery and passenger transport. It has no internal structure as the pressurized helium inside the craft causes the Vectran (Kuraray, Tokyo, Japan) skin to maintain its shape. Carbon fiber composites are used in structural applications to help minimize the weight of the craft. The Airlander 10 can stay aloft for up to five days at a time in an unmanned configuration.

 “It was privilege to fly the Airlander for the first time and it flew wonderfully. I’m really excited about getting it airborne. It flew like a dream,” said Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns.

The four  engines were started approximately 30 minutes before takeoff. Once airborne, Chief Test Pilot David Burns, accompanied by Test Pilot Simon Davies, flew the Airlander within six-mile area around Cardington Airfield, just to the south of Bedford, in England. Airlander climbed to a height of 500 feet and reached a maximum speed of 35 knots. Due to a later than anticipated take-off time the Airlander was limited to a 19-minute flight so it could land safely before darkness fell.

All test objectives were met during the flight. 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.

Hybrid Air Vehicles, Shortstown, Bedford, UK, says Forward Composites, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, UK,  has worked extensively with the company on many aspects of the aircraft, particularly the cabin. Other initial sponsors are AV Optics, BOC, Finmeccanica, Scotland Electronics and Vector Informatik GmbH.

The next step is to ensure the UK Government runs a trial in order to demonstrate the potential of this aircraft to the world and secure exports as well as grow further jobs in Bedfordshire and in the supply chain across the UK (80% of Airlander’s supply chain is British). This will help ensure the £6 million of UK Government grants received thus far lead to orders. Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd is also looking to raise equity through high net worth individuals and institutional investors to fund some aspects of the flight test program.