New Aircraft Concept Takes Flight

A new aircraft concept called the Aeroscraft completed what Mario Pantuso, Aeros business development, described as the “first float” this month. Pantuso said the initial flight-testing program has been conducted in a hangar and has proven the aircraft’s vertical takeoff and landing and hovering capabilities. The first flight outside the hangar is expected in the next two to four months.

The Aeroscraft is described by Aeros, a company headquartered in Montebello, California, near downtown Los Angeles, as a rigid variable buoyancy air vehicle. It is engineered to carry heavy, oversized loads and is kept afloat by helium — a non-flammable gas as opposed to hydrogen, which is used in some airships and hybrid airships, according to Aeros. Another advantage the Aeroscraft will have over an airship is that it is engineered to be controllable without ballast once its cargo has been unloaded.

The proof-of-concept Aeroscraft currently in the testing phase is about two-thirds to one-half the size of the final design, said Pantuso. The next stage is to build a 66-ton version, but the final design is targeted for a staggering 500 tons with the capability of carrying the maximum load in a hover. This final design will have a rigid shell — the proof-of-concept is constructed with a light fabric covering. The final location of the cockpit has yet to be determined, but the Aeroscraft will be controllable by a single pilot, Pantuso said.

With the final design still in the making and it being such an unconventional aircraft design, this new concept of aircraft likely has a long road to entering the market. But Aeros is no stranger to the certification process having already achieved FAA certification for an airship, the Aeros 40D Sky Dragon, more than a decade ago.

Pantuso also referred to the Department of Defense as a “partner,” which makes the future of this unconventional aircraft design a more likely possibility than it may appear at first blush. Pantuso said Aeros has been “ahead of schedule and under budget” on all the projects and contracts they have had with the DOD. And after having proven the vertical takeoff and landing and hover capabilities, one big step on the long road to certification has been completed.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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