World's Largest Aircraft Takes First Flight
The world's largest aircraft, the Airlander, took its maiden flight at Cardington airfield north of London on Wednesday.
Airlander is part blimp, part helicopter and part airplane. The aircraft was originally conceived for use by the U.S. military, but British aviation firm Hybrid Air Vehicles took on the project after the U.S. scrapped it in 2013.
Now, Airlander—potentially a low-carbon option for flight, despite the many challenges and limitations of blimp flight—is closer to real-world use.
Wednesday's flight was just the beginning of testing of the Airlander: The test program will continue for months.
According to Hybrid Air Vehicles, Airlander can travel up to 90 miles per hour, reach heights of 16,000 feet (commercial jets frequently travel around 35,000 feet), and stay in the sky for two weeks. (A cruise in the sky, anyone?)
Videos from the test flight reveal the humming of Airlander as it oh-so-gently maneuvers overhead. The aircraft—filled will helium—is more floating marshmallow man than speed racer.
“It was privilege to fly the Airlander for the first time and it flew wonderfully,” Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns, one of two to test the aircraft, said in a statement. “It flew like a dream.”