At 302ft, it is the world’s longest aircraft. That’s longer than the Airbus A380 airliner and almost as long as Big Ben is high, Daily Mail reports.
But that is not the HAV304’s main claim to fame. It is a hybrid aircraft – part plane and part airship.
It is also almost 8 metres longer than the airlift cargo aircraft Antonov An-225, which was until now the longest aircraft ever built.
The giant aircraft is being displayed at Cardington in Bedfordshire in the only hangar big enough to accommodate the 34 metres wide and 26 metres high beast.
Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden and a high-profile investor in the aircraft, compared the ship to Thunderbird 2 and described it as a ‘game changer.’
“It will be able to cross the Atlantic and launch things right where they need to be,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
“It can reach about 100mph and stay airborne for about three-and-a-half weeks.” The low carbon ship, known as the HAV304, doesn’t require a runway to take off and is thought to be about 70 percent more environmentally friendly than a cargo plane.
It is due to fly in the UK later this year and is designed to stay airborne for up to three weeks to help with activities such as surveillance, communications and delivering aid. Created by Hybrid Air Vehicles and first flown in the US, the ultra-green HAV304 project has just received a £2.5 million grant from the UK government.
It looks like giant airship but it has a unique aerodynamic shape that means it can also create lift just like an aeroplane wing. The cambered shape provides up to 40 percent of the vehicle’s lift.
This allowed engineers make the machine heavier than air, removing the need for crew to hang onto ropes to hold it down. A number of ballonets fore and aft in each of the hulls provide pressure control. The aircraft is powered by four 350 hp, four litre V8 direct injection, turbocharged diesel engines. Two engines mounted forward on the hull and two on the stern of the hull for cruise operation. The plan is that the HAV304 will eventually lead to the development of the Airlander 50, which would be able to transport 50 tonnes of freight.
The huge aircraft combines the best of aeroplane, airship and helicopter design. HAV believes there could be a world market for between 600 and 1,000 of these aircraft. For the time being, the company plans to produce around 10 a year for the next four or five years. This is expected to lead to the creation of 1,800 jobs in the Bedfordshire area. “The growing aerospace sector has the potential to generate thousands of new jobs and billions of pounds to the UK economy in contracts,” business secretary Vince Cable said on Friday.
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