World's Largest Aircraft Successfully Masters First Flight, It Looks Different

Airlander 10's mayden flight 11 photos
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube
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Over a century after the first forms of motorized aviation, innovation and inventions still appear. Sure, most do not bring the same revolutionary improvements as those that have already occurred, but every little bit counts.
This story is about the Airlander 10, the world’s largest aircraft. Contrary to what you might expect, this is not just a blimp, and is considered an aircraft, even though it is filled with helium.

How big is it, you ask? Well, it is 302 feet (92 meters) long and it can carry ten metric tons of cargo (22,050 pounds). Before you Google it, we will tell you that the Antonov AN-225 is “just” 84 meters long (275 feet), but it can carry more than the Airlander 10.

Speaking of blimps, the Hindenburg was 245 meters long (803 feet), so the Airlander 10 is still a long way (pun intended) to go until it reaches the proportions of the famous German blimp that was destroyed in a horrible accident. Fortunately for the makers of this craft and everyone around it, the Airlander 10 is filled with helium, not hydrogen, thus being significantly safer since it is not flammable.

As you have already observed, this is a crossover among aircraft, as it merges three categories - blimps, airplanes, and helicopters. It brings a little of all worlds, and this means that it uses significantly less fuel than a craft that can carry as much as it does, as well as the capability of staying aloft for up to three weeks at a time.

Furthermore, it has the capacity of landing anywhere where there is a flat surface large enough to accommodate it. This is a significant advantage over a conventional freight plane. It does not need a runway for take-off, can travel vast distances, is greener, and also cheaper.

The Airlander 10 was originally designed for the U.S. Army in 2012, but they never used it, so Hybrid Air Vehicles, the company that created this craft, bought back the design and built a working prototype.

As ABC News notes, the UK-based company that developed it wants to make a successor to the Airlander 10, which will be able to carry five times more weight than this peculiarly-shaped craft by 2020. The capacity of the latter would be of 50 metric tons (110,000 pounds) of cargo.

We must note that the company has already announced that the craft has already met all of its test objectives, which included safe take-off and landing maneuvers (essential for the success of any aircraft, if you ask us), as well as several gentle turns.

The maiden flight of this creation reached the breathtaking speed of 35 knots, lasted 19 minutes, and reached a height of 500 feet. Evidently, these figures are not impressive, but this was just a test as a proof of concept. The maximum altitude that can be grasped by this creation is 16,000 feet (4,900 meters), while the top speed is designed to be 90 mph (148 km/h).

By the way, some say that the shape of this craft reminds them of something, at least from certain angles. We are not so sure about it, so we will let you be the judge.

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About the author: Sebastian Toma
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Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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