The world’s largest aircraft has finally left its hangar and begun flight testing.
The 302-foot-long, 143-foot-wide and 85-foot-tall Airlander 10 made its maiden voyage out of Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, England, on Wednesday, reaching a height of 500 feet and a maximum speed of 35 knots. The flight lasted about 20 minutes.
The helium-filled aircraft has garnered a lot of attention for its massive size and distinct shape, but British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles is quick to point out that the Airlander 10’s design could be a game changer for low-carbon aviation. Hybrid Air Vehicles says there is already customer interest in the aircraft for search and rescue applications, military and commercial survey work, and for carrying cargo or communications equipment.
The hybrid aircraft utilizes its lighter-than-air structure, aerodynamic design and vectored propulsion to stay airborne. It’s powered by four 350 hp turbocharged diesel engines, and Hybrid Air Vehicles says the Airlander 10 will be capable of landing on nearly any surface with the use of retractable skids.
Hybrid Air Vehicles expects the flight test program to continue for several months, after which it will offer trials and demonstrations to prospective customers.