A British aeronautical firm, Hybrid Air Vehicles, is hoping its airship prototype will revolutionise the freight industry. Measuring 92 metres (302 feet) in length, the Airlander 10 is the world's largest aircraft and offers a significantly lower cost per freight-tonne kilometre than traditional cargo planes.
Part airship, part aeroplane, the Airlander 10 flies using both aerostatic and aerodynamic lift, generating 60% from helium and 40% from its streamlined shape respectively. Its super-tough balloon is a triple-layer weave of Kevlar, Mylar and carbon fibre, which holds 85,000 cubic metres (3 million cubic feet) of inert gas.
Capable of flying nonstop for five days, the Airlander 10 can hover and land on any surface (including ice or water), making it ideal for remote operations such as gas and oil drilling where runways are scarce.
Nicknamed "The Flying Bum" due to its generous proportions which resemble Kim Kardashian’s derriere, the Airlander 10 is designed to meet heavy lift requirements which critics say don’t go far enough to make any real impact on the air freight market. Case in point, its maximum payload of 10,000 tonnes is a tenth of Boeing’s 747-400ERF, and it travels at a fraction of the speed.
Hybrid Air Vehicles hopes to mass produce the Airlander 10 by 2018, manufacturing up to 10 per year by 2021. A larger 50-tonne version is due in the 2020s, but it won't be until the company's 100-tonne airship materialises that haulage capacity will exceed its 747 counterpart.
"The Airlander experienced a heavy landing and the front of the flight deck has sustained some damage which is currently being assessed" Hybrid Air Vehicles said. "Both pilots and the ground crew are safe and well and the aircraft is secured and stable at its normal mooring location"
The accident was captured on camera by onlookers who came to see the aircraft's second test flight. A total of six are planned.