Not since the final dismantling of the R100 in 1932, had a Cardington Shed shed been seen filled with an airship envelope of a size of comparison.
The HAV 340 or know as the "Airlander 10" is the first large scale ship produced by company Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company owes many of it's 30 year history and background to Airship
Industries from the 1980's, and it's designer and Director, Roger Munk.
The company had worked on a smaller scale model of the ship during the early part of the 2010's and a proof of concept vehicle had show, one interested purchaser, that the vehicle could fill a role in aviation surveillance and cargo transportation. That interested party was the United States Army who asked the company to design and build the ship for them.
This was completed in 2013, however as part of the recession and budget cuts, the project was decided to be dropped. The ship was completed, and had flown a test flight, proving airworthiness in the United States. It was the quick decision of Hybrid Air Vehicles, to purchase the ship back off the United States Army, deflate, and return it to the UK.
With that, the ship arrived back in December 2013 and was air inflated in the recently restored Shed 1 at Cardington, probably the only building which was capable of storing such an aircraft. At the present time, the ship will be slowly re-inflated and floated with inert helium.
The concept of the Elliptical Airship
The shape of the AIRLANDER may be seen as a completely new hull design compared to historical and contemporary airships. However the shape can be traced back to as early as 1929, when Sir Dennistoun Burney, the driver behind the Imperial Airship Scheme, working with Barnes Wallis, had come up with the wing shaped concept. Quoting from his book "The World, The Air, The Future" the ship would be designed as follows:
"The basic idea of the new pontoon-equipped dirigible is to enable it to land at unprepared places. Our object is to keep the ship under dynamic control by means of rudders and elevators, until it can be securely held, and is no longer in danger of being blown over by a side wind. To achieve this, two long floats, similar to the hulls of flying boats, but much larger, were constructed under midship. These are fitted with ballast tanks, and fixed to the hull, as far apart in a transverse direction as possible. At the same time the section is altered from the standard circular to an elliptical section. This reduces the overall height and lessens resistance to side winds. It also increases the dynamic lift at a given speed, and by enabling the boat hull to be more widely spread, increases the righting moment of the floats.
There are, of course, many minor problems connected with the development of the new dirigible. The advantages of the Ellip- tical ship by no means stop at mooring and handling. Owing to greater width of beam, it will have at any given speed a greater dynamic lift and therefore less difficulty in maintaining an approximately even keel in the air than is the case with a circular vessel. Again, as it will be able to dispense with the greater part of the ballast now carried, the equivalent weight of this can be added to the pay load. Nor must we forget the all-important question of size. A helpful factor in the construction of dirigibles is that efficiency increases with size. Hitherto, it has been impossible to increase size to any great extent, owing to the difficulty of handling and the fact they cannot make an unpremeditated landing. In the case of the pontoon-equipped ship, however, these hindrances will be removed, and it will be possible to build a ship of twice or even three times the capacity of R100 or R101. "
The AIRLANDER is
designed to be the safest form of air travel. The vehicle does not stall,
lands on any reasonably flat surface and has a takeoff and landing speed
of around 40 knots. It is fitted with four propulsion units and with
close on 10,000 Shaft horsepower (SHP) for the 50 tonne variant it has
sufficient power and range to deal with the most challenging environments;
The AIRLANDER is a hybrid air vehicle and derives its flight capability from a mix of aerodynamic lift and helium buoyancy.
The envelope is constructed from a laminated fabric that offers strength, a gas barrier and protection against the elements. It also has an internal catenary system supporting the payload module. The hulls aerodynamic shape, an elliptical cross-section allied to a cambered longitudinal shape, provides roughly 40% of the vehicles lift. The internal diaphragms required to support this shape allow for some compartmentalisation, further enhancing the fail-safe nature of the vehicle. Multiple air-filled ballonets located fore and aft in each of the hulls form part of the automated pressure management system.
On vehicles that operate from a set base, simple profiled pneumatic tubes on the underside of the two outer hulls are used. This simplified landing system saves weight and is used mainly on the unmanned surveillance vehicles, further increasing their endurance.
The Heavy Lift versions of the AIRLANDER uses an innovative landing system called the Air Cushion Landing System (ACLS). This enables the vehicle to land on almost any reasonably flat surface including land, water, ice and snow. The ACLS is also used, in conjunction with the bow thruster, to simplify manoeuvrability on the ground, reducing the need to operate the main propulsion units. The ACLS can also be used to create suction to ensure the AIRLANDER remains stationary during loading and off-loading.
The landing systems
are deflated and sucked-into the hull for a clean in-flight
profile. The power units used for inflation / deflation are shared with
the ballonet fans and managed by the hull pressurisation system.
Since the AIRLANDER
is effectively an aircraft with inherent buoyancy, it is fitted with
significant power plants that are more akin to those found on fixed
wing aircraft. While most airships have less than 1,000 SHP (Shaft Horsepower),
the AIRLANDER 50, for example, will have four turbine engines generating
around 10,000 SHP.
At the present time we will continue to monitor the progress of the return of the airships to Cardington. We are working with the Hybrid Air Vehicles team and will provide details and updates as and when available. With the excitement building, it looks like the Airlander 10 will be flying above Bedfordshire on proving flights in April or May 2016.
The new ship 2016
Over 2014 and 2015 the ship was reassembled and checked, replacing the main gondola and command cabin, and installation of upgraded and improved equipment. Engline tests and helium ordered over the summer of 2015, with final completion and assembly in winter 2015. By March 2016, the ship was completed and on 21st March the ship was unveilled to the world press.
First UK Flight - 17th August 2016
The HAV Airlander 10 prototype was walked out of shed 1, at 04:00AM on the morning of Saturday 6th August, whereby the ship was moved to the souther part of the landing field. The ship spent a week undergoing engine tests and pre flight preparations outside.
On the evening of 17th August at 7:40pm the Airlander 10 prototype took to the skies for a short local test flight of 30 minutes. All systems and operations worked perfectly.
The ship remained at the mooring site for a further 7 days, for further engine tests and crew training.
Second UK Flight - 24th August 2016
On the morning of 24th August the HAV Airlander 10 took off for it's second test flight, performing perfectly for a first 100 minute flight and successful test flight, which demonstrated the excellent flight characteristics of Airlander, and the test objectives in the second flight completed included a series of turns at increasing speed, and a series of climbs and descents up to 3,000 feet in altitude over a 100 minute flight. Some technical tests on hull pressure were also undertaken. On return at 12:30pm the ship came in to land, but the front nose dropped causing damage to the flight deck and forward gondola. The ship was able to land, and both the test pilot and engineers were unharmed.
The ship was checked over, and then it was decided to move the HAV Airlander 10 prototype in to Shed 1, where she was returned at 8:00pm that evening. The HAV team are reviewing the operations and undertaking the first stages of returning the aircraft back to flight.
Return to Flight - April 2017
Over the winter of 2016, the HAV Airlander was shed bound, whilst the full investigation in to the heavy landing of the second flight, and repairs to the cockpit could be undertaken. The official report noted that a mooring line had become jammed, and hence snagged on power lines when coming in to land, this meant that the pilot had to make a higher landing than originally planned. This lead to the damage caused on the second landing. These issues were reviewed and 63 mondifications were made to the ship following the report. The ship's design changes includes deployable "bump bags" which can be deployed in 15 seconds on landing which will protect the cockpit but also stop the nose from "surging" to the ground.
On Friday night of 7th April 2017, the HAV Airlander was taken out of the shed and moored awaiting further air trials in the spring. Further ground testing and engine trials followed the week later whislt out on the airfield.
Third UK Flight - 10th May 2017
The evening of Wednesday
10th May was the perfect evening for the first testing flight of 2017,
as the Airlander 10 returned to the skies. The team were delighted to
announce a successful flight of the Airlander 10 . All objectives of
the planned flight were accomplished. The Airlander was taken off its
mooring mast at 17:20 and took off at 17:28. It flew for a total of
three hours before landing at 20:15 and was secured safely on the mast
Fourth UK Flight - 13 June 2017
its pioneering test flight programme by successfully completing another
flight over Bedfordshire. This is the Airlander 10s fourth flight
and second in 2017. Each flight sees Airlander pushing its envelope
a little further and increasing our understanding of this innovative
Fifth UK Flight - 4th July 2017
A slightly overcast
evening greeted the Airlander in continued its test flight programme
for it's fifth test flight.
The HAV team then moved the Airlander in to shed 1 after this flight for inspection and further testing.
Sixth UK Flight - 17th November 2017
On the evening of 17th November, the ship took off at 15:30pm for a short early evening flight, landing just after 16:32pm.
Breakaway incident - Saturday 18th November 2017
On the morning of Saturday 18th November, at 10:30am, the Airlander 10 broke free of it's mooring on the airfield. As this was an unplanned "launch" the emergency systems within the ship fired, which were designed in the ship for just such an eventuality to avoid accidental loss and free balooning. The emergency system of compressed gas "bolts" fired correclty and deflated the envelope to ensure the ship stayed close to the ground. The Airlander came to rest in the land adjoining the lower side of the airfield. One HAV staff member sustained injury and sought medical assistance, but was discharged late that day, and one staff memeber was injured in securing the envelope. The ship has remained on the scene of the incident whilst air accident investigation team investigate the root cause of the ship breaking free.
HAV confirmed that once the investigation has been completed, then they will move the ship to a secure site, and then the rebuilding of the new envelope will commence.
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