World’s biggest aircraft’s maiden flight piques Russian interest

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World’s biggest aircraft’s maiden flight piques Russian interest

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World’s biggest aircraft’s maiden flight piques Russian interest

By Ofonime Essien


The Hybrid Air Vehicles giant Airlander 10 airship flies over hangars on its maiden flight at Cardington Airfield near Bedford, north of London. The aircraft is 92m long, and 43.5 wide. Justin Tallis / AFP

Russia has its eye on developments in the UK airship industry following the successful maiden flight of what is billed as the world’s biggest aircraft.

The Airlander 10 is a true giant of the skies; it would take the Olympic triple sprint gold medallist Usain Bolt – running at world-record pace – around 9 seconds to clear its 92m length.

The aircraft is built from lightweight composites and is a hybrid between a traditional rigid-framed Zeppelin and a frame-free blimp. It took to the skies amid cheers and applause from crowds gathered at an airfield in Cardington, central England, last week.

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The successful flight comes 85 years after another airship – the ill-fated R101 – took off from the same airfield in October 1930 before crashing in France, killing 48 people and effectively ending the development of airships in Britain.

Originally developed for the US army as a surveillance aircraft, the Airlander 10, also has potential uses in the commercial sector, such as carrying cargo of up to 10 tonnes, according to its maker Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV).

Reporting on the event last week, the Russian newspaper Vzglyad highlighted economic factors it said will contribute to growth of the market the British company is targeting.

Russian experts have already proven, according to Vzglyad, that the use of airships will help to significantly reduce cargo delivery time. Additionally, the airships would reduce the need for warehouses and transshipment bases.

Now the average rate of transit for the conventional mixed transportation system using lorries, railway and a cargo ship stands at 8kph to 10kph, while the average speed of an airship is 100kph.

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Airships are more environmentally friendly and less noisy than other types of air transport and use much less fuel during transport of the same cargo over the same distance.

The next-generation airships will run using so-called fly-by-wire systems, which along with the rigid lightweight frames, will allow for the construction of comfortable or even luxurious interiors on board. This might allow them to compete with airliners in the not-so-distant future.

In the face of UK competition, Russia is intensifying efforts to develop its own state-of-the-art dirigibles, including the Au-30, created by Augur RosAeroSystems.

“The unique multifunctional 10-seat Au-30 airship has already been lifted up to the sky and now remains one of the most advanced in the world,” according the company’s website.

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RosAeroSystems’ other projects in development include the medium altitude unmanned airship Sokol, the high altitude unmanned Berkut satellite airship and hybrid cargo-and-passenger ATLANT airships.

HAV, which describes the Airlander 10 as the “largest aircraft currently flying”, received a British government grant of £2.5 million (Dh12.1m) to develop the project.

The Airlander can fly at up to 4,880 metres and reach speeds of 148kph, according to HAV.

Filled with helium, it can stay airborne for more than two weeks unmanned and up to five days if manned.

Its first flight was delayed due to a technical fault, which was resolved in time for the aircraft to take off in clear weather conditions for Wednesday’s 30-minute flight.

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The HAV chief executive Stephen McGlennan said the aircraft was cheaper and greener than helicopter technology.

It is also much safer than the airships of the 1930s as it uses helium rather than explosive hydrogen to privide buoyancy.

“It’s a great British innovation. It’s a combination of an aircraft that has parts of normal fixed wing aircraft, it’s got helicopter, it’s got airship,” he said.

A project to develop the aircraft for surveillance use by the US military was shelved due to budget cuts.

Source: The National







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About Author

Ofonime Essien

Mr. Ofonime A. Essien, is a Helicopter Pilot. He is also a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), Oracle Certified Associate (OCA), a Computer Forensics Expert, a Blogger, Web Master, a Writer and an Entrepreneur. He is an avid reader. He likes motivating others to achieve their dreams through writing and speaking.

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