The Airlander has completed its first flight successfully. All objectives of the planned flight were accomplished and the aircraft is now safely back at its masting site.
The giant airship took off from the historic Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, England at approximately 19:45 on Wednesday 17 August and after a short flight it landed at approximately 20:00.
The two Test Pilots – David Burns and Simon Davies – were said to be ‘ecstatic’ about the flight and the performance of Airlander during its time in the air. They kept the airship within a six-mile area around Cardington Airfield, climbing to a height of 500ft and reaching a maximum speed of 35 knots. Due to a later than anticipated takeoff time, the flight was limited to nineteen minutes so the aircraft could land safely before darkness fell.
The first flight marks the commencement of the Airlander’s flight test programme, which is expected to last for a number of months. After this the aircraft will begin a series of trials and demonstrations with prospective customers.
Customer interest is strong due to it providing low carbon emission and brand new capabilities in the sky. The Airlander also offers a stable platform with huge amounts of power and space for search & rescue or communications equipment, and also offers a unique passenger experience.
Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns said, “It was privilege to fly the Airlander for the first time and it flew wonderfully. I’m really excited about getting it airborne. It flew like a dream.”
All test objectives were met during the flight. These included the safe launch, flight and landing and a series of gentle turns at increasing speed. Some technical tests on its hull pressure were also undertaken.
The Airlander is expected to be a showcase of UK innovation and is already being used in the UK Government’s “GREAT Britain” campaign to highlight the strength of the aerospace sector and the innovation in engineering this country is capable of creating. Customer interest has increased, particularly in the defence and security sector, and this, together with UK Government support should secure 400 new aerospace jobs as well as valuable export opportunities for the UK economy
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