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World's longest aircraft unveiled

World's longest aircraft unveiled
28 Feb 2014

The world's longest aircraft has been unveiled at Cardington airfield in England. 

Hybrid Air Vehicles' (HAV) Airlander, which was originally designed for the US Military, is a helium-filled craft that combines technologies from airships, planes, helicopters and hovercraft to maximise efficiency. 

At 91m long and 26m high, it dwarfs the Boeing 747-8, which is currently the world's longest passenger aircraft at 76.3m from nose to tail and 19.4m tall. 

Its maker hopes that its unmatched fuel efficiency, low noise pollution and ability to take-off and land without needing a runway will revolutionise luxury travel, cargo distribution and aid delivery. 

'This is actually three airships squidged together, which means we can make the hull into a wing, so we can fly and generate lift and are not just reliant on the helium lift' explained HAV's programme director Nick Allman. 

The Airlander first flew in 2012 during a secret test at a US airbase, but following budget cuts, the Americans ditched the project in 2013. The craft has now been delivered back to the cavernous Shed 1 at Cardington, which at 247m long and 48m high is large enough for the team there to reassemble it. This process will take the rest of the year. 

HAV are hoping to have the Airlander airborne again by early 2015, when they will begin testing ahead of the craft's first passenger flight in 2016. Among those on this inaugural voyage will be the lead singer of Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, who is a shareholder in the firm. 

It might seem strange for a heavy metal frontman to be involved in an airship company but, in fact, the 55-year-old is a fully qualified pilot who has flown commercial flights as well taking his fellow band members on tour aboard a Boeing 757-200 dubbed 'Ed Force One' and decked out with Iron Maiden livery. 

HAV is running a competition to join Dickinson and other celebrities for the launch. ADNFCR-408-ID-801699007-ADNFCR

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