The aircraft, being developed by Hybrid Air Vehicles, reached another milestone in its Return to Flight programme with its first helium fill.
The 92 metre-long Airlander was ‘walked’ the entire length of the 248-metre hangar, supported by fork lift trucks, one at each corner.
Work continues on finalising the Airlander’s the engines, fins and Mission Module. A series of ground tests are scheduled for early next year ahead of the aircraft’s first flight during the first quarter of 2016.
HAV technical director Mike Durham said, “Seeing the Airlander come to life and floating was simply breath-taking. This is a key moment for the UK’s aerospace industry in getting this unique aircraft ready for flight.”
Airlanders are low noise, low pollution, and environmentally-friendly. The aircraft have ultra-long endurance, and a point-to-point cargo-carrying capacity. They can take off and land vertically and operate from remote environments including water, desert, ice and fields.
Airlander is the global leader in the independently validated $50 billion market for this new green aircraft technology. The company expects that 1,800 new jobs will be created in the UK in the next five years.
They are useful for any long endurance tasks such as coastguard duties, military and civil surveillance, filming and academic research.
In passenger configuration they are likely to carry 48 passengers in luxury for tourism and pleasure flights, and the Airlander is currently undergoing market testing of an overnight luxury passenger service and a business city-centre to city-centre sleeper service.
Airlander will carry up to ten tonnes of cargo, and fly half way round the world on a single tank of fuel.
The project has already secured over £60 million of customer funding, more than £6 million of grants and over £12 million of equity funding.
Further funding is being raised now ahead of a planned Initial Public Offering on the smaller company’s Alternative Investment Market.
The Airlander is building an order book of commercial and military orders for trials and demonstrations and for aircraft sales.
HAV is actively seeking sponsors for the aircraft and continue to see many people joining Airlander Club, which has many benefits including getting their name on the hull in time for first flight.