Colossal aircraft sets size record in the skies
As the Airlander 10 takes flight in the coming weeks, it will take the crown for the world’s largest aircraft. At 302 feet long, and weighing over 44,000 pounds, the massive vehicle will dwarf anything else in the sky, but it won’t outrace them. That’s because the Airlander 10 was designed for efficiency and flexibility, as long as you have enough space for it to land.
The Airlander 10 isn’t so much of an airplane as much as it’s an airship. While its design borrows elements from speedier, more nimble aircraft, the vessel is clearly built with a blimp as its foundation. The hybridized elements are interesting though, such as the shape of the helium-filled hull mimicking a traditional airplane wing in order provide extra lift, which will make the craft more efficient overall. Adjustable rotors and ballonets (extra air-bags) allow for vertical take-off and landings, which actually allows for a smaller landing zone than even the world’s shortest runway, which is a relatively huge 1,299 feet long at the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport. If a 300-foot plot of land is still too hard to come up with, the Airlander 10 can also land on water.
What’s the aim of an airship?
The airship isn’t just big for the sake of setting records, of course. It’s meant to offer everything from cargo transport, carrying up to 22,000 pounds at a time, to act as a piece of mobile infrastructure. The craft’s fuel-efficiency allows for it to stay airborne for up to five days with a crew, or up to two weeks if human comfort and safety aren’t limiting its capabilities. It could therefore haul and temporarily “install” communications or monitoring equipment— anything that didn’t require too many tethers to the ground.
If somehow, after all this, the huge aircraft still seems insufficient for your flying island needs, designers at Hybrid Air Vehicles are hard at work with the eventual replacement, the Airlander 50. By the 2020s, they hope to be flying over 100,000 pounds of cargo in the 390-foot-long airship, or as my first grader put it, a flying hotel.
Source: World's Largest Aircraft Readies for Takeoff by Jeanna Bryner, Live Science