The world's largest aircraft, Airlander 10, will embark on its first test flight nex month (March) over Bedfordshire, UK. The Airlander 10, which is part plane and part helicopter, is preparing to embark on a series of a test flights after almost three years since work began in the UK. Walkers in Bedfordshire may be surprised to see the futuristic aircraft hovering above them in the skies next month. It is shaped like a traditional airship, similar to a super sized Thunderbird 2, and filled with helium to raise it. The team behind the vessel will begin to attach its fins and engines this week.
The aircraft will then be able to leave the massive hanger at Cardington airfield, near Bedford, that has been its home since 2013. It needs to have clocked 200 hours before being declared airworthy by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The extraordinary aircraft was originally created by its British manufacturer, Hybrid Air Vehicles, as a surveillance aircraft for the US military. Head of communications at the company, Chris Daniels, said: "We were looking at pictures of airships over Bedfordshire in the 1920s and the sight of them literally stopped the traffic. People were awestruck. "We're expecting the same thing. In context, we're talking about something much bigger than an A380 - the world's largest plane - flying a lot lower and a lot slower. I'm slightly worried about the effect it will have on the A-roads of Bedfordshire."
The Airlander 10 is 305 feet long, 143 feet wide and 85 feet tall. The aircraft can carry 10 tonnes and is made of a strong carbon fibre, designed by the same company that makes spacesuits for American astronauts. Its weight means that it can hover as well as land on most surfaces, including ice, deserts and water. It can operate in extreme temperatures, from 54C to minus 56C.
The high-tech aircraft, which can carry up to 50 people, burns a quarter of the fuel of normal planes.
It can travel up to speeds of 92 mph and soar to 20,000 feet. The project received £60million from the US Government before being shipped to Britain for further development, where an extra £13m was ploughed into it.