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'Flying Bum's' first flight was a gas, gas, gas

We like big blimps and we cannot lie, as the Airlander takes to the sky

Video To quote Douglas Adams, “uglier things have been spotted in the sky, but not by reliable witnesses”: England's Airlander 10, nicknamed the “flying bum” for obvious reasons, has taken its first test flight.

Originally created for the US Army's since-cancelled Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), the enormous dirigible was bought back by Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) in 2014.

It wasn't a bad deal for HAV, either: having built the airship for about US$100 million, it bought it back for just $300,000.

Funding to get the Airlander off the ground included various crowdfunding rounds, mining magnate Peter Hambro, and Iron Maiden frontman and keen pilot Bruce Dickinson.

The first flight was delayed a few days ago, but on Wednesday at 19:40 BST it lifted off from the Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, showing off the bank-and-turn its hybrid part-aeroplane, part-airship design lets it perform.

Youtube Video

The flight was more or less a shakedown for the huge vehicle, and makes it officially the largest aircraft to take to the skies, at 92 metres long (which gives it 15 metres over the biggest passenger jet). It even beats the Antonov AN-225's 84 metres, but the Airlander's helium-based lift is only 10 tonnes (the Antonov is good for about 250 tonnes). ®

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