Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns said, "It was privilege to fly the Airlander for the first time and it flew wonderfully. I’m really excited about getting it airborne. It flew like a dream."
Burns, accompanied by Test Pilot Simon Davies, flew the Airlander within a 5nm area around Cardington Airfield, climbed to a height of 500ft, and reached a maximum speed of 35kts.
All test objectives were met during the flight, according to the company. 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 first flight of Airlander 10 marks the beginning of the craft’s flight test program which is expected to last for several months. Afterward, the aircraft will begin a series of trials and demonstrations with prospective customers.
Airlander 10 is designed to stay airborne for up to five days at a time to fulfill a wide range of communication and survey roles, carry up to 10 metric tons of cargo, and be suitable for tourist passenger flights.
The Airlander is expected to be a showcase of UK innovation and is already being used in the UK government’s "GREAT Britain" campaign to highlight the strength of the country’s aerospace sector and innovation in engineering. Airlander’s backers cite increased interest for the vehicle in the defense and security sector, the potential for 400 new aerospace jobs, and valuable export opportunities for the UK economy.
The company has received £6m (US$7.9 million) of UK government grants and US$2.84 million in funding from the EU's research and innovation program thus far. Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. is also looking to private equity investors to fund some aspects of the flight test program and has had two online crowdfunding rounds, producing more than 2,000 shareholders.
Founded in 2007, Hybrid Air Vehicles’ Airlander range of hybrid aircraft combine characteristics of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters with lighter-than-air technology to significantly lower carbon footprint and operating cost compared to other forms of air transport.
The Airlander 10 with its multi-lobed envelope, in its previous incarnation as the U.S. Army’s LEMV airship, flew one test flight at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in August 2012. After the U.S. program was terminated in 2013, Hybrid Air Vehicles acquired the vehicle as surplus, and has since rebuilt it in one of England’s surviving 1920s-era airship sheds.
Source: Hybrid Air Vehicles