The world’s largest aircraft, Airlander, has taken to the air after being filled with helium.
The cutting-edge airship was floated to a few metres above the ground and “walked” the length of it hangar, in Cardington, on Saturday (October 31).
Four fork-lift trucks each took a corner of the Hybrid Air Vehicle’s (HAV) craft to pull it along the shed, a manoeuvre which takes it closer to its first flight over Bedfordshire early next year.
HAV’s Technical Director, Mike Durham said, “Seeing the Airlander come to life and floating was simply breath-taking. This is a key moment for the UK’s aerospace industry in getting this unique aircraft ready for flight.”
The 92-metre airship will have its engines, fins and mission module reattached by the end of this year.
From early 2016 a series of ground tests will take place inside and outside the Hangar ready for first flight during the first quarter of 2016.
Airlanders are low noise, low pollution, and environmentally-friendly.
They have ultra-long endurance, and a point-to-point cargo-carrying capacity. They can take off and land vertically and operate from a range of remote environments including water, desert, ice and fields.
They are useful for any long endurance tasks such as coastguard duties, military and civil surveillance, filming and academic research. In passenger configuration they are likely to carry 48 passengers in luxury for tourism and pleasure flights, and the Airlander is currently undergoing market testing of an overnight luxury passenger service and a business city-centre to city-centre sleeper service.