Today, the Duke of Kent had the honour of officially naming the world’s largest aircraft. Housed at Cardington, a World War I hanger in Bedfordshire, Airlander 10, more affectionately referred to as the ‘Flying Bum’, took more than ten years to build and cost £25 million.
It’s 300 feet long and can be pumped with a million cubic feet of helium. It’s approximately 50 feet longer than the largest passenger jets. It can fly up to 92 mph and remain in flight for up to five days. The aircraft has been officially named ‘Martha Gwyn’ after the wife of the chairman of the company Hybrid Air Vehicles, (HAV), Philip Gwyn.
Before beginning 200 hours of flight testing later this year, the part airplane/helicopter/airship will go through ground testing. This aircraft was officially developed for the United States government to serve as a long-endurance surveillance aircraft. However, defense cutbacks caused the initial project initiative to fall through. Recognising that this aircraft could handle a diverse range of missions such as surveillance, communications, delivering aid and passenger travel in the form of pleasure flights and assistance for flying to difficult locations; HAV revitalised a campaign to get it airborn in July of last year.
David Burns, Airlander 10’s Chief Test Piolot had this to say about this innovative aircraft. “It’s very pleasant to fly. From the flight deck you have a lovely view. It allows you to have a good look around because generally the flying is fairly low so there’s plenty to see.”
He continued by explaining how it will look for passengers and observers alike. “For the people on board and the people down below it’s going to look quite a sight. You’re talking about 300 feet long. There’s nothing that size at the moment.”
In May, Professor Chris Atkin will become the incoming president for the Royal Aeronautical Society described this project as follows: “It’s a new slant on a well-established idea with very clever use of technology.”