The world’s first full sized hybrid aircraft, fuelled in part by helium (He), has taken to the skies again after crash-landing last summer.
The Airlander 10, a creation of UK-based manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), completed a successful test flight yesterday after a heavy landing last August had put the vessel out of action.
The 92 metre-long aircraft nosedived on landing during its second test flight in 2016, sustaining damage to its cockpit and flight deck.
But the HAV team made a number of modifications since its bump, including adding a more powerful and manoeuvrable Mobile Mooring Mast (MMM) and ‘landing feet’ to its Auxiliary Landing System (ALS).
Three test objectives, including completing a safe take-off, flight and landing, establishing basic handling characteristics, and collecting performance data, were all achieved during the successful airtime.
Technical Director Mike Durham enthused, “This is a great testament to the tenacity and ingenuity of the team of engineers at HAV, who are continually pushing the boundaries of aviation with this amazing aircraft.”
This successful test flight recommences the Flight Test Programme of the Airlander 10. During each of its three phases, the Airlander will perform more tasks and be permitted to fly further away from its base in Cardington, Bedfordshire.
The next few flights are likely to be at least a week or two apart in order to give time for a full analysis of the data collected on the flight.
Founded in 2007, HAV developed the ‘lighter-than-air’ vessel to help coordinate significant aviation needs, such as staying airborne for communications, surveillance, search and survey tasks and transporting heavy goods and aiding point-to-point without the need for expensive airport infrastructure.
There is no internal structure in the Airlander. Instead, it maintains its shape due to the pressure stabilisation of the He inside the hull and its Vectran material.
BOC, the UK and Ireland’s largest supplier of industrial gases, supplied HAV with the He gas required to launch the Airlander’s first commercial test flights in 2016.
The Airlander is one of the largest and greenest aircraft in the world, while BOC (via parent company The Linde Group) has access to 25% of the world’s commercially available He and, through its £11m ($16m) investment in its He transfill facility in Thame, Oxfordshire in 2007, now has more cylinders, liquid dewars and bulk tube trailers dedicated to its He business than any other supplier in the UK.