Some private aircraft manufacturers embody great design; others, engineering. Then, there are those who introduce radically new concepts couched in an otherwise old vocabulary. Such is the case with the Hybrid Air Vehicles HAV 304/Airlander 10, the world’s largest aircraft.
Built by British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the Airlander 10 is a hybrid helium airship with auxiliary wing and tail surfaces. The Airlander 10 flies using both aerostatic and aerodynamic lift, and is powered by four diesel engine-driven ducted propellers. The HAV 304 was originally built for the United States Army‘s Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) program. Its initial flight took place in 2012. In 2013, the LEMV project was canceled by the US Army. HAV then reacquired the airship and reassembled, modified and renamed the Airlander 10.
Having received the necessary approvals and £7 million on Crowdfunding campaigns, in 2014 Airlander was ready to fly once again. Fast forward to an impressive 30-minute stint in the air, and the £25, 92m (302 ft) flying bum crashed in its second test flight. That was in 2016. Engineers now have something better in mind.
Eight years after the initial build of the prototype, “Airlander challenges people to rethink the skies – that’s the driving force behind everything we do.” Mclennan intoned. “Air travel has become very much about getting from A to B as quickly as possible. What we’re offering is a way of making the journey a joy.”
HAV has suggested that the airship will fly again sometime shortly after 2020; entry into service could come as early as four years of order. “Our focus is now entirely on bringing the first batch of production-standard, type-certified Airlander 10 aircraft into service with customers,” said Stephen McGlennan, CEO of Hybrid Air Vehicles.
With this in mind, HAV has now turned its eye to the high-end luxury market. According to Design Q, HAV’s collaborative partner on the project, the Airlander 10’s cabin is larger than most single-aisle aircraft. It can stay in the air on a three-day expedition with up to 19 passengers.
Airlander 10 can accommodate any number of layout designs, including a reception area, onboard catering, and flexible seating; the current configuration includes en-suite cabins; it flies much slower than conventional commercial aircraft; reaches an altitude of 6,100m (16,000 ft); has floor-to-ceiling windows, glass floors; and can land and take off on any flat surface, without an airport or runway.
Unlike most airships, Airlander does not have a circular cross-section, because it has an elliptical shape with a contoured, flattened hull. Here’s Design Q’s CEO Howard Guy. “We love doing different things,” he says. “Our fantastic team of young designers relishes the opportunity to do something no one’s done before, to imagine a new concept and then to get into the detailed design of what this space will be.”
“My team exploited the opportunity that Airlander 10 presents; we had a huge space to create an experience that makes no compromises. This is luxury like you’ve never known it – with the ability to go anywhere in the world.”
| Photos courtesy of Airlander