World’s Largest Aircraft Makes 1st Flight in UK

Ablimp-shaped, helium-filled airship considered the world’s largest aircraft flew for the first time on Wednesday with a short but historic jaunt over an airfield in central England.

Engines roaring, the 302-foot Airlander 10 rose slowly into the air from Cardington airfield, 45 miles north of London.

A hybrid of blimp, helicopter and plane, it can stay aloft for days at a time and has been nicknamed the ‘flying bum’ because of its bulbous front end.

The Airlander 10

The Airlander 10, part plane, part airship

The Airlander 10, part plane, part airship CREDIT: CHRIS RADBURN

Chief executive Stephen McGlennan said he thinks there will be plenty of customers for the vehicle – both civilian and military – because of its potential to gather data and conduct surveillance for days on end.

“What it does now, and will do, is fly, point to point, a bit like a giant helicopter, taking bigger loads, longer distances, cheaper, safer and crucially, without the same damage to the environment,” he said.

The aircraft was initially developed for the US military, which planned to use it for surveillance in Afghanistan.

The US blimp programme was scrapped in 2013 and since then Hybrid Air Vehicles, a small British aviation firm that dreams of ushering in a new era for airships, has sought funding from government agencies and individual donors.

The vast aircraft is based at Cardington, where the first British airships were built during and after World War I.

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