World’s Largest Aircraft Floats for the First Time, Will Be Ready for Flight Next Year

Airlander 1 photo
Photo: The New Economy
It’s capable to carry up to 10 tonnes of cargo and fly half way round the world on a single tank of fuel. It’s low noise, low pollution, and environmentally-friendly. And it’s big, very big. Considered the modern replacement of the legendary Zeppelin, the world’s largest airship of its kind recently took off.
To set things straight, it should be said that the aircraft - formally called HAV-3 - has never left the Cardington, Bedfordshire-based hangar where it’s being built. However, on October 31 at 10 pm, it was floating for the first time.

Dubbed Airlander, the 92-meter aircraft was “walked” the entire length of the 248 meters store to get to the front doors. This involved four forklift trucks, one at each corner of the beast, each carrying a 2-tonne block of cement with a restraining rope attached moving in unison. Not exactly the regular Saturday morning, one may think.

The principle is second-grade physics, as Airlander is a huge balloon that was filled with 1.3 million cubic feet of helium - a gas lighter than air - and off it went. To get a better picture of its size, imagine that the gas is enough to fill 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools. As mentioned above, the first outdoor flight is scheduled for the first quarter of 2016, as further ground tests still need to take place inside and outside the Hangar first.

The company manufacturing the beast, Hybrid Air Vehicles, claims Airlanders have ultra-long endurance and a point-to-point cargo-carrying capacity. They can take off and land vertically and operate from a range of remote environments including water, desert, ice and fields.

In passenger configuration, the aircraft will carry 48 passengers in luxury for tourism and pleasure flights, with optional overnight luxury passenger service and a business city-center to city-center sleeper service to be considered, too. Despite the fact that they are still opened for sponsors for the aircraft, the British company claims Airlander has already secured over £60 million ($91,749,000 at the current exchange rate) in customer funding, more than £6 million ($9.17 million) in grants, and over £12 million ($18.35 million) in equity funding.
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