The world’s LARGEST aircraft ever made is set to take flight in Britain

The largest aircraft ever created is going to take to the skies sometime this year. The company behind the aircraft, Hybrid Air Vehicles, has announced that their prototype is ready for flight.

Sean Smith

23/03/2015 Bedford.Cardington Airfield Shortstown. Hybrid Air Vehicles. The Airlander which will be having test flights this year. It has already flown in the States. Photo Sean Smith

“2016 will be a momentous year for the future of aviation with the innovative Airlander 10 taking to the British skies for the first time; our pioneering team of experts continue to make ground-breaking progress on a daily basis – most recently attaching the Mission Module to the iconic hull.”  said in the statement release by the company.

The Airlander 10 is has described as an airship-helicopter hybrid, with the ability to cruise at 148 km/hr and a payload capacity of up to 10,000kg. Airships were first used in the early 20th century and were envisioned to be the future of transport. Not long after, prior to World War II, jet engines were invented and they became immensely popular.

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The Airlander 10 was originally commissioned by the U.S military, but was later sold off due to cutbacks and project delays. Hybrid Air Vehicles, the original designers of the aircraft, bought back the rights and decided to make the aircraft for commercial uses.

Now, 70 years later, Hybrid Air Vehicles believe airships do have a place in the modern world. With the ability to have a 5-day manned flight, at altitudes up to 20,000ft (6,100m); means the aircraft has the ability to transport not only people, but cargo. The aircraft is 92.0m long, 43.5m wide and 26.0m tall. That is about the same length as a football pitch, and as tall as 6 double decker buses.

Unlike traditional airships, the Airlander 10 has no internal structure and becomes rigid when filled with helium. The hull material is made by the company that produces spacesuits for NASA and comprises of innovative materials to give it extra strength.

Located in Cardington, Bedfordshire, the company had more than 40 years of continuous innovation and investment into light-air-vehicles. Hybrid Air Vehicles intends to make the aircraft stay airborne for weeks instead of hours, and provide significantly lower delivery costs for freight. Hybrid Vehicles hopes to introduce larger aircraft vehicles with the ability to transport a 1000 tonnes.

The Airlander is made up of 7 sections:

  • Envelope
  • Landing System
  • Power Plant
  • Payload Module
    • Flight Deck
    • Mid-Body
    • Aft-Body

The Envelope, which is the large balloon-like hull, is by far the largest part of the aircraft. It is helium filled and provides 40% of the vehicles lift. Inner support structures allow for a limited amount of compartmentalisation, which further enhances the fail-safe nature of the aircraft.

The Landing System consists of pneumatic tubes/skids placed underneath the hull. They are ‘sucked-in’ during flight and have the ability to land on water as well as dry ground. This makes the vehicle unique in its ability to transport cargo to areas not accessible before.

The Power Plant which drives the vehicle, contains 3×365 hp, 4 litre v8, turbocharged engines. Two are placed at the front of the hull, whilst the remainder are at the back on the stern.

The Payload Module is divided in three compartments, the Flight Deck,  the Mid-body and Aft-body. The Flight deck has 1 pilot station, which has all-round visibility ,  and one payload compartment. The Mid-body consists of the payload beam, used for externally slung loads. The Aft-body holds the fuel tanks and additional payload space.


Cardington hangars where Airlander 10 is being built. Source


The UK government has backed the project by granting £5.9 million as of February 2015. With lower emissions and small carbon footprint, the Airlander 10 seems to offer a viable alternative to current vehicles. With the use of fossil fuels becoming more and more criticised, it’s easy to see why the government wants to invest in this technology.

The flight due to take place in Britain and cover no more than a 70 mile radius. The company hopes to successfully complete the operation and move on to producing commercial vehicles. Hybrid Air vehicles hopes to fill the skies with hundreds of aircraft if all goes according to plan.

Hybrid Air Vehicles 

The Verge





Saad Bhatty

Blogger, journalist, geologist and Tech-enthusiast. There is always something to write about!

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1 Response

  1. February 14, 2016

    […] Airships or simply giant balloons full of people may one day call the clouds of Venus their home. The pressure as mentioned before is almost exactly like Earth’s leading to a relatively simple design much like airships at home. […]

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