World's Largest Aircraft Signals Return of the Airship

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World's Largest Aircraft Signals Return of the Airship

 6th Mar 2015

Seventy-Eight years after the Hindenburg disaster ended the airship era, Hybrid Air Vehicles is looking to bring the most romantic form of air travel to the 21st Century. Reporting that their Airlander 10 airship program is undergoing a series of full engine tests, the organisation is set on brining the world’s largest aircraft into commercial operation.

At 92 metres long, the Airlander can take-off and land from a range of surfaces, including water, and carry passengers. Four 325hp, 4 litre V8 direct injection, turbocharged diesel engines propel the Airlander through the sky and can do so for five days non-stop.

In flight, two engines are mounted forward and two on the stern for cruise operation. All four are configured in ducts with blown vanes to allow vectored thrust for take-off/landing/ground handling operation and eliminates the need for those dubious docking towers.

The US Army tested their own version of the Airlander ­ the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or LEMI ­ back in 2012 the maiden flight lasting 90 minutes. The Airlander project began in 2010.

The current civilian engine tests are focused on identifying any improvements to the Airlander’s propulsion systems prior to a series of trials and demonstrations with a range of potential civil and military customers during 2016.

The latest milestone in Airlander’s development has been made possible with assistance from Innovate UK and a £3.4m Regional Growth Fund Grant.

According to Hybrid Air Vehicles, Innovate UK’s Low Carbon Aircraft Technology Experimentation (LOCATE) programme has supported key work in aerodynamics, automation and manufacturing technologies, and underpinned the company’s ability to hire new staff in 2014.

In a statement, Tom Grundy, HAV’s operations director said, ‘Airlander is an aircraft that can carry very large loads long distances and remain airborne for weeks at a time. We are showing customers worldwide that this can be a game-changer in many different airborne applications. [This] run of our highly efficient engine system is a big step towards the next flight of Airlander, and towards flight demonstrations of the aircraft’s capability in 2016.’

According to HAV, the market for Airlander aircraft has been independently validated at over $50 billion over the next 20 years, representing an opportunity to create over 1,800 high-tech jobs in the UK.

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