Airlander Hybrid Airship Flies Again

 - May 11, 2017, 8:43 AM
This underside view of the latest Airlander 10 test flight shows the oval pressurized airbags that have been added either side of the flight deck. (Photo: HAV)

The Airlander 10 hybrid airship got airborne for the first time yesterday since sustaining serious damage to its flight deck in a heavy landing after its second test flight last August. Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) reported that all objectives were met during the three-hour flight from Cardington airfield in the UK.

The accident last August was caused by an out-of-control vertical landing, after a higher-than-normal approach that the pilots flew in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the vehicle’s mooring line dragging on the ground. The line had fallen free after the first attempt to land and secure the vehicle failed because of a fault in the winching apparatus at the mast. The Airlander 10 cannot develop sufficient vertical thrust for controlled vertical landings in calm or light wind conditions.

To address these problems, HAV has designed and built a more powerful and maneuverable mobile mooring mast on a tracked vehicle. To protect the flight deck and mission module, an “auxiliary landing system” has been added, consisting of two pressurized airbags that can be retracted for cruise flight. The mooring line can now be recovered into the vehicle, if it falls free.

HAV aims to complete the flight test program by year-end. It has not yet confirmed a firm production launch order, nor any payments for the trial and demonstration flights that it is offering, despite reporting some weeks ago “advanced negotiations” with one potential customer for two vehicles, and “$20 to $30 million” of potential trials flying.

The company has sought additional funding to cover overhead and rebuild expenses during the flight–test hiatus. It has managed to raise nearly £5 million ($6.5 million) to date. It will need another £3 million ($3.9 million) to complete the flight-test program. HAV is hoping that the renewed test flying will encourage this investment. It is also planning an initial public offering (IPO eg a listing on the UK stock market) before the end of the year.   

Ultimately the Airlander 10 will break the mould of aviation, providing an ultra-stable, ultra-powerful and ultra-long endurance platform that will be useful in a huge number of roles from search and rescue, to border control, coastguarding, crowd monitoring, security, academic research and filming,” the company said. HAV has also identified a “luxury tourism” market. But it has now tacitly acknowledged that its present design is not suitable for the much-touted “remote lift” market.