Technicians Inspect the Hull on Airlander – Maintaining the World’s Largest Aircraft

  • The first full inspection of Airlander’s hull was completed this week by HAV’s team of aerospace technicians as part of ongoing analysis during the Flight Test Progamme.
  • This was the first annual yearly check of the hull surface as a part of its flight test programme.  Simple but spectacular access techniques are now proven and Airlander passed its inspection with flying colours.  
  • Airlander is ready to demonstrate its airborne capability to its customers as its flight programme continues.
  • Airlander is in a class of its own in the most useful capability of payload x endurance – which is vital to patrol, search, surveillance and communications roles.
Technicians recently completed a full hull inspection of Airlander using simple, safe and spectacular rope access techniques developed to make maintaining our unique aircraft routine. As expected, no major problems were found and Airlander got the thumbs up to continue its flight test programme.  This was the first time this access process has been used outside on the hull following development inside our hangar. This technique is key to enabling Airlander to demonstrate its ability to be maintained outside, without need for a permanent hangar.    

We now benefit from remarkably easy access to all the upper surfaces and systems of the Airlander, using the same ascender system as the technician team uses for routine engine maintenance and inspection.

Airlander is 26m tall (around the same height as four stacked double decker buses) which means that great care and thought has been put into maintenance techniques. Safety ropes are permanently attached to the hull and our technicians undertook rigorous training to ensure the highest safety standards. Access is gained to the hull via power ascenders supplied by ActSafe, the world leaders in this kind of equipment. Safety is the priority for Airlander and we always ensure the highest standards are adhered to.

“Being up on the hull is a fantastic experience – I didn’t want to come down! It was a privilege to be part of the small team that performed the scheduled safety checks. We were pleased to find no major issues, further proving Airlander’s resilience.” – Ivor Pope, Maintenance, Modification and Ground Operations Manager

About Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd

Founded in 2007, Hybrid Air Vehicles is the company behind the innovative Airlander range of hybrid aircraft. They utilise new aerospace technology that combines the best of the characteristics of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters with lighter-than-air technology to create a new breed of hyper-efficient aircraft, with a significantly lower carbon footprint and operating cost than other forms of air transport.

Airlanders are low noise, low pollution, and are environmentally-friendly. They have ultra-long endurance, and a point-to-point cargo-carrying capacity. They can take off and land in a short distance from unprepared sites in desert, ice, water, or open field environments. Hybrid Air Vehicles has been awarded both UK and European grant funding to support the Airlander project. In addition the company has carried out two ‘crowdfunding’ rounds and is proud to have more than 2000 shareholders without whom return to flight would not have been possible.  Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd was recently accepted onto London Stock Exchange’s ELITE programme for high growth companies looking to seek a listing on the Stock Market.

The Airlander project was selected for funding through a dedicated SME Instrument of Horizon 2020, which the European Commission uses to invest in and support high growth and highly innovative small businesses. The technology is also fully in line with activities under the Smart, Green and Integrated Transport Societal Challenge of Horizon 2020, which aims to boost the competitiveness of the European transport industries and achieve a European transport system that is resource-efficient, climate-and-environmentally-friendly, safe and seamless for the benefit of all citizens, the economy and society.

Airlander 10 is designed to stay airborne for up to five days at a time to fulfil a wide range of communication and survey roles, as well as cargo carrying and tourist passenger flights.

Please visit http://www.hybridairvehicles.com/about-us/invest-in-us for more details about investment opportunities.

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For images, please visit www.hybridairvehicles.com/news-and-media/press/image-downloads.

For general media enquiries, contact media@hybridairvehicles.net or call 01234 336400

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Plans for the Growing Airlander Business
Anyone living close to Cardington cannot help but notice the huge changes that have happened since HAV moved in nearly 4 years ago. We now have over 100 people on the site most days, and share our hangar with a very busy Warner Bros film studio and storage site. Next door in Hangar 2 the film industry is also making great progress, so busy days at Cardington now see over 1000 people arrive for a day’s work. With new roads and new housing coming, the pace of change will not slow down any time soon. At HAV, our focus now is on building from the great success of the initial Airlander 10 testing, and preparing to produce Airlander aircraft and deliver them all over the globe. So this is a natural time for us to make sure that we are set up for the future with the right site and the right facilities and we have been reviewing our needs to ensure that we can do just that. As a result we have concluded that we now need to begin a process of moving HAV to a new site, away from Cardington. We have worked with everyone on and around the site to make every effort to find a way to stay here, but after that extensive exercise we believe that moving is the right and pragmatic decision for us. We are proud of what we have achieved in the last 4 years and we couldn’t have done it without Cardington. We are constantly amazed by the support and affection of the vast majority of people and businesses in our area, and we are pleased to bring jobs and, we hope, other benefits including our STEM work and other activities to Bedford. We also benefit from the great transport links of this area and its proximity to London. So we’re very pleased to say that we don’t plan to move far. We will make further announcements in the coming weeks, and these will start with a new location for our Engineers and our other office-based teams to work from locally as from the beginning of December. You will also hear in the coming weeks that we will start to use other airfields a little further away to undertake testing and other operations of Airlander. We have been preparing for this transition for a long time – including right from the start by designing Airlander to be maintained and supported outside without need for a hangar after it is built. We’ve been busy this year proving all of our maintenance techniques work without coming back in to the hangar and have made very good progress with that. With extended flight testing and customer demonstrations about to start, some of which need more take-off and landing distance than Cardington allows, this is the right time for Airlander to start visiting some new locations. Finally, we hope to announce at a later date where our planned production location for Airlander will be sited. This location will be the focal point of new employment both in HAV and our supply chain providing nearly 2000 additional jobs in the UK, delivering parts and sub-assemblies for building, testing and delivering 12 or more aircraft per year. We plan to do this from “right-size” hangars, purpose designed for Airlander 10. We are now working to finalise the design for these and will reveal more in future issues. For now, though, we can reveal that our approach to this has been as innovative as you would expect, and we have turned to the event structures industry to develop a road-transportable hangar that can be erected very rapidly in a new location. This gives us - and our customers - the flexibility to respond quickly to demand for hangars here, or in the future operating locations for the aircraft. All this makes it a very exciting time for HAV and the Airlander project. This is, of course, tinged with real sadness to be starting to move away from Cardington and gratitude to everyone in and around us for their support and help over the years here. We hope that Cardington can remain a testing and mooring site for Airlander – as we believe it should - long into the future. With 100 years of heritage behind it, and Airlander just beginning its journey into the world, who knows what new chapters of our industry will be written at Cardington in the future?

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