It's an exciting time to live near Cardington in Befordshire, because in just a few weeks' time, they'll get to watch the world's largest aircraft, the Airlander 10 airship, take to the skies. Needless to say, it's a pretty big moment in the history of aviation.
So what the heck is the Airliner 10, and why should you care?
Not a Zeppelin, Alright?
It's a hybrid vehicle, part plane and part airship, and is 25 per cent larger than a Boeing 747. Unlike the 747, however, the Airlander 10 is designed to be able to stay airborne for up to five days, which could be incredibly useful for military surveillance, transporting cargo, and even disaster relief.
While it looks like an updated version of the Zeppelins that traversed the skies in the early parts of the 20th century, Hybrid Air Vehicles (the company who built the new aircraft) have been deliberate in avoiding the comparison. Apparently the Airlander 10 is more like a plane than conventional airships, since it's far stronger and has wings that generate lift. That also means that it's not as vulnerable to high winds, and doesn't need a particularly large ground crew to help it get airborne.
It also doesn't have any sort of internal skeleton inside the envelope, which stays rigid thanks to gas pressure alone. HAV hopes that future models will have the capacity to hold a whopping 50 tonnes of cargo too.
Airships haven't been seen since the Hindenburg tragedy in 1937, which is one of the main reasons why modern airships swapped the potentially-explosive hydrogen with inert helium. They have, however, seen a surge in popularity in recent years, helped by the fact that they require round a third less fuel than a standard cargo jet, and cost a mere £30 million to build. A typical airliner usually runs within the region of £250 million. They also happen to produce very little noise, which is bound to make house prices near airports skyrocket.
The Airlander 10 is meant to be the first in a fleet of 1,000 airships just like it, and is hoped to generate 1,800 jobs.
Are the Aliens Here?
Yesterday, the second of four engines was fitted onto the Airlander 10 and, later this month (weather permitting) it will lift off from its hangar home. The test flight will have the ship head east towards the A1M motorway for all passing drivers to see.
Call me cynical, but I expect a few calls to the police from frantic idiots who think the aliens have arrived. [The Independent]
Featured image: HAV