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'Flying Bum' Airship Takes Flight In England

The Airlander 10 took its first test flight at Cardington, north of London, marking a return of airships to the historic airfield.
Hybrid Air Vehicles
The Airlander 10 took its first test flight at Cardington, north of London, marking a return of airships to the historic airfield.

A hybrid airship affectionately dubbed the "The Flying Bum" for its bulbous, multi-chambered design made its maiden flight this week in England.

The Airlander 10 — billed as the world's longest aircraft — took off from Cardington airfield, north of London, on Wednesday evening. During the roughly 15-minute test flight, it reached speeds of 40 mph and heights of 500 feet before landing around dusk.

Two test pilots were at the controls, developer Hybrid Air Vehicles says in a statement.

You can watch the flight below:

Combining lighter-than-air and powered flight, the Airlander 10 is designed to be "low noise, low pollution" and capable of remaining aloft for up to five days, Hybrid Air Vehicles says. Technical specifications put the ship's maximum altitude at 16,000 feet and cruising speed at just over 90 mph.

The company says its airship has a range of potential uses, from "communication and survey roles, as well as cargo carrying and tourist passenger flights."

Measuring 302 feet in length, the Airlander 10, is 50 feet longer than a Boeing 747, as The Huffington Post reports.

"It's a great British innovation," Hybrid Air Vehicles CEO Stephen McGlennan was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. "It's a combination of an aircraft that has parts of normal fixed-wing aircraft, it's got helicopter, it's got airship."

Yet, it's the resemblance to a derriere that draws the eye.

All kidding aside, the Airlander 10 is a resuscitation of sorts for lighter-than-air travel. A previous version had been developed for U.S. military surveillance, but was scrapped due to budgetary reasons, IHS Jane's 360 reports. The company also has a larger — and perhaps curvier? — airship in the works.

Moreover, the Airlander 10 marks a return of airships to Cardington airfield, the British home of lighter-than-air travel in the technology's heyday, before such deadly incidents as the Hindenburg crash in 1937 ended that era.

Unlike those airships, which mostly used hydrogen, the Airlander 10 uses helium, which is non-flammable.

A test flight of the Airlander 10 had been planned for this past Sunday but was postponed because of a technical issue, The Associated Press reports, adding that more test flights are planned for the near future.

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Jason Slotkin