World’s Largest Aircraft Inflates In Size Ahead of Production

The project is certainly ballooning out.

By Rachel Cormack 28/01/2020

The Flying Bum has even more junk in the trunk than we thought. Being five times the size of the Goodyear blimp just wasn’t enough for Airlander 10. The world’s largest aircraft—whose affectionate nickname refers to its bulbous shape—has grown an extra 5 per cent in length in the leadup to production.

The previous prototype—built by Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) at a cost of $62 million—measured an impressive 92 metres and had a volume of 37 thousand cubic metres. It carried out six successful test flights between 2016 and 2017 before it crashed dramatically in November of 2017. This time around, HAV is upping the ante.

The in-development Airlander 10 will span an incredible 97 metres and feature a rounder front and new tail section. This refined, lower-drag shape means the new model will burn very little fuel during flight—achieving up to 75 per cent lower carbon emissions than comparable aircraft. The landing gear has also changed from non-retractable helicopter-type landing skids to six retractable legs.

The World's Largest Aircraft - The Airlander 10

Courtsey of Hybrid Air Vehicles

In addition, the updated Airlander 10 will boast a wider and longer cabin for passengers, cargo and equipment. At full length, the main cabin (excluding flight deck) offers 195-square metres of floor space, ensuring it’s nice and comfortable for air cruises to the north pole which the Airlander 10 is slated to carry out. With 16 passengers on board, the next-gen model can stay in the sky for three full days and cover approximately 2000 nautical miles. It is also far quieter than a conventional plane.

The team also made adjustments to improve handling in all modes of flight—take-off, climb, cruise, descent or landing—and added a new forward propulsion system and bow thruster. To top it off, HAV is currently developing an electric propulsion system with Collins Aerospace and the University of Nottingham, which means a zero-carbon flight is not far off.

HAV aims to be in production “soon” and says the first Airlander 10s to roll off the production line will go to “organisations in the tourism and clean-technology sectors.” The company predicts the first Airlander 10s will be back in the sky by 2024.

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