World’s largest aircraft is almost ready! Giant fin is attached to the ‘Flying Bum’ airship ahead of its first flight next month Airlander 10 was originally developed as part of a US Army project which was then abandoned in 2012 A British company is now converting the aircraft - a cross between an airship and an aeroplane - into civilian use It recently took off inside its hangar in Bedfordshire for the first time so engineers could add the finishing touches Engines and fins are being fitted and the 300-ft (93 metre) craft will make its debut test flight next month
The world's largest airship, nicknamed the 'Flying Bum', is almost ready for its test flight next month.
The 300ft-long (93 metres) ship was originally developed as part of a US Army project but was scrapped by military bosses.
It is now being converted to provide business and leisure flights in a hangar in Cardington, Bedfordshire.
The first giant fin has now been attached to the ship, which is officially called the 'Airlander 10', according to Hybrid Air Vehicles who is constructing the aircraft.
The fin, measuring 9 x 11 metre, was secured to the hull using a series of cables and clamps. If you were to lay two tail fins side-by-side, they would comfortably cover the playing area of a tennis court.
The vessel was filled with 1.3 million cubic feet of helium - enough to fill 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools - in a test run last October.
Yet despite its impressive size and design, which is hoped to reinvigorate interest in using airships, the vehicle is attracting more attention for its appearance.
The October tests caused a stir on Twitter, with many spotting the airship's rather unfortunate resemblance to a human bottom.
In one case a head-on image of the airship has been altered to include a picture of Kim Kardashian, who is famous for her derriere.
The craft has already been tested with a successful hover test, with the hull being filled with helium and floated outside the aircraft hanger in November, but this will be the first test once the engines are successfully attached.
The date of the test flight has not been announced but the craft will be restricted to a 70-mile (112km) radius. If successful, an aircraft based on this prototype will go into production.
It can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, which means it does not need a long runway to operate.
British firm Hybrid Air Vehicles was originally one of the contractors developing the vessel for the US Army under a $500million programme scrapped in 2012.
The company then bought the rights to develop the Airlander for commercial use - including use as a passenger aircraft that will carry 48 people at a time.
The vessel will also offer business services such as coastguard duties, military and civil surveillance, filming and academic research.
Engineers are hoping eventually to launch a sleeper service which could travel overnight between major cities for business customers.
Among the wealthy figures backing the project is Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who has invested around £250,000 ($360,000) in the Airlander, as well as Carol Vorderman.
In its military incarnation, the aircraft previously embarked on a test flight in New Jersey, but the lift-off on 31 October was the first time the civilian version had left the ground.
In a blog post, Hybrid Air Vehicles explained: 'Already this month there have been a number of major attachments under the hull in preparation for the forthcoming First Flight of Airlander, beginning with the fuel module at the rear of the aircraft, followed by the payload beam, (which will support bulky external cargo) and finally, the cockpit and payload bay (which we term the Mission Module) were attached this week.'
Unlike traditional airships, the Airlander has no internal structure but it becomes rigid through being filled with helium, at just above atmospheric pressure.
The super-strong hull material was designed by Warwick Mills and assembled by ILC Dover, the company that makes Nasa spacesuits.
It uses a woven fabric for strength on the inside, and a Tedlar layer for protection on the outside, around a mylar film to retain the helium.
Tedlar is used to lower how flammable the coatings on planes are, and is also used in raincoats and metal sheeting.
'The very latest materials, which are both strong and light, are used throughout the manufacture of our cutting-edge Airlander 10, ranging from the bespoke hull fabric to the mainly carbon composite Mission Module, Fuel Module, Ducts and engine support battens,' continued the firm.
'We produce less noise, less pollution, have a lower carbon footprint than conventional aircraft, and have longer endurance and better cargo-carrying capacity than any other flying vehicle.'
The Airlander's power comes from four 350hp, four-litre V8 diesel engines - two mounted at the front and two at the back.
With a length of 302ft (93 metres), a width of 143ft (44 metres) and a height of 85ft (26 metres), it is officially the world's largest aircraft - the biggest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, is only 240ft (73 metres) long.
However, the Hindenburg - the German zeppelin that crashed in New Jersey in 1937 with the loss of 35 lives - was three times longer than the Airlander.
The Airlander's base at Cardington is the historic home of the Royal Airship Works, set up in 1919 to build R101 airships in a failed attempt to damage German dominance of the industry.
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