A giant new aircraft – the biggest in the world – has a distinctive shape; futuristic though somehow reminiscent of something more familiar.
The Airlander 10 is a hybrid mix of airship, fixed-wing plane and helicopter, equipped with the very latest technology. It will be able to carry large payloads over long distances and could be used to convey passengers, though for specialist operations rather than mass transit.
Hybrid Air Vehicles, a British Aerospace company, designed the craft, which is 92 metres long – about 20 metres longer than an Airbus A380 – but a lot slower. The Airlander 10’s top speed is just 146 kph. Many cars and motorbikes can travel faster than that.
The designers admit that the Airliner 10 does look “rather bottom-like”.
“We’re well aware what it looks like,” Hybrid Air Vehicles’s head of partnerships and communication, Chris Daniels, told the technology, science, art, and culture site The Verge.
“We can’t do anything about that,” Daniels said, adding that once in the air, the Airlander 10’s sleekness and aerodynamic shape would make “the whole bum thing” vanish from the mind of the beholder.
The voluptuously curved body will be filled with helium, a lighter than air gas that doesn’t burn. The infamous disaster which turned the Zeppelin Hindenburg into a ball of fire in 1937 happened because that airship was filled with hydrogen, which burns fiercely.
The Airlander 10 is quiet, eco-friendly and able to land almost anywhere, including on water. It can hover over the same place for days.
Investors include Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden, an aviation enthusiast who is a licensed pilot for big commercial jet aircraft.
Written by Peter Needham