Via The Independent, news to gladden a Zeppelin-lover's heart: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's the world's largest hybrid aircraft. Excerpt:
The Airlander is about 60ft longer than the biggest airliners, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8. It is also almost 30ft longer than the cargo-carrying Antonov An-225, which until now was the longest aircraft ever built.
Although resembling an airship with its giant helium-filled balloon on top of a 150ft long flight deck, the Airlander’s unique aerodynamic shape means it can generate lift like an aeroplane wing – and it’s going to get bigger. The prototype on display in Cardington is the forerunner of the Airlander 50, a 50-tonne heavy lift hybrid vehicle that should be in the air this time next year.
Dave Burns, the Airlander’s chief test pilot, gave The Independent a guided tour of the machine which from the rear looks like three giant cigars stitched together. “One of the problems with airships in the past has always been the ground handling with the number of people you need to manhandle it to keep it steady – the Airlander is the solution to that problem with its air cushioned landing system.
“The sheer mass of it makes it different to an airship, which are usually seven to eight tonnes. The Airlander is a 38-tonne machine so the inertia is incredible. Airships are like piloting an aircraft carrier in rough seas but this is very steady. It’s a majestic machine.”
HAV’s chief executive Stephen McGlennan said the plans to build up to 1,000 Airlanders in the coming decades could bring around 1,800 jobs to the area. The company has already had interest from governments and agencies all around the world.
“We want to be building one Airlander a month in a few years’ time,” said Mr McGlennan. “Once they're built, they will get to work in places like Canada where they will be pivotal in operating remote mines for example or in the Middle East because of the large deserts they can operate in and master oil and gas pipelines.”
You can find out more on the Airlander website, which includes a 2:45 video reminiscent of an Apple commercial.