Photo: Hybrid Air Vehicles
The Airlander 10, known in Britain as “the Flying Bum” because of its unique structure, has slowly edged its way out of a hangar in central England ahead of its debut flight as a civilian aircraft.
Purchased by Britain-based aviation company Hybrid Air Vehicles in 2013, the 92m helium-filled airship was originally developed for the United States Army as a spy aircraft to hover over war zones for weeks using only a fraction of the fuel needed by conventional aircraft.
Hybrid Air hopes to attract customers and corner the market in areas ranging from humanitarian aid delivery to cargo shipments in hard-to-reach places.
The airship is a hybrid of a blimp, which maintains it shape from internal gas pressure, and a Zeppelin, which has a rigid airframe.
The Hybrid Aircraft can carry 80 tonnes of cargo and cruise between 20 knots and 80 knots at an altitude of 6,060m, according to the company.
Airships have a history stretching back to the 19th century, although their use was curtailed by competition from airplanes in the 20th century and high-profile accidents such as the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.
Hybrid Air is a privately held company funded so far by £17.5 million (S$30.6 million) raised from 1,000 shareholders. It has benefited from US investment, and British and European Union grants.
A series of final ground tests is planned for the weeks ahead of the flight. If all goes well, the company hopes to be building 12 more airships by 2018.