Low-carbon balloon-borne Airlander aircraft makes historic first flight from UK

The Airlander takes to the air
The Airlander takes to the air

The Airlander 10 balloon-borne aircraft – which has been hailed as an innovation that will have a hugely positive impact on the world by providing low carbon aviation and brand new capabilities in the sky – has made its historic first flight from Britain.

After taking-off from the historic Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire on Wednesday, it landed after a short flight before dark at 8.00pm local time.

The two test pilots were said to be ‘ecstatic’ about the flight and the flight performance of Airlander during its time in the air.

Chief Test Pilot David Burns, accompanied by Test Pilot Simon Davies, flew the Airlander within a six mile circuit around the airfield, climbing to a height of 500ft and reaching a maximum speed of 35 knots.

All test objectives were met during the flight. These included the safe launch, flight and landing of the Airlander 10 and a series of gentle turns at increasing speed. Some technical tests on its hull pressure were also undertaken.

The non-flammable, helium-filled Airlander range of hybrid aircraft utilise new aerospace technology that combines the best of the characteristics of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters with lighter-than-air technology to create a new breed of hyper-efficient aircraft, with a significantly lower carbon footprint and operating cost than other forms of air transport.

Airlanders are low noise, low pollution, and are environmentally-friendly. They have ultra-long endurance, and a point-to-point cargo-carrying capacity. They can take off and land in a short distance from unprepared sites in desert, ice, water, or open field environments.

The Airlander takes off for the first time 17 Aug 2016
The Airlander takes off for the first time 17 Aug 2016

The aircraft is designed to stay airborne for up to five days at a time to fulfil a wide range of communication and survey roles, as well as cargo carrying and tourist passenger flights

A spokesman for the developer, Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd, said: “Customer interest is strong due to these game-changing capabilities of the Airlander – it offers a stable platform with huge amounts of power and space for search & rescue or communications equipment, and also offers a unique passenger experience. 

“The next step is to ensure the UK Government runs a trial in order to demonstrate the potential of this amazing aircraft to the world and secure the lucrative exports, and grow further jobs in Bedfordshire and in the supply chain across the UK – 80% of Airlander’s supply chain is British and includes Scotland Electronics.”

Morayshire based Scotland Electronics provides a range of motion-control products to the N. Sea oil and gas sector.

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