History was made this month when the Airlander 10, the world’s largest aircraft, took flight for the first time. The 302-feet-long and helium-filled air vessel — that has somewhat snarkily been nicknamed “The Flying Rump” because it just looks like a giant butt — made a full lap around Cardington airfield in Bedfordshire, England.
The Airlander 10 was first created for the U.S. military as a surveillance vehicle in Afghanistan, but those plans were scratched back in 2013, according to the Associated Press.
At 92m long and 43.5m wide, this is the world’s largest aircraft, dwarfing heavyweights such as the Airbus A380 ‘superjumbo’. It’s a bit cheaper, too, with a catalogue price of £25m, compared with £287 for an A380.
It can also carry a 10-tonne payload, comparable with military transport helicopters such as the US Air Force’s workhorse of choice, the Boeing CH-47 Chinook.
The Airlander, made by British company Hybrid Air Vehicles, has 4 engines and no internal structure. It maintains its shape thanks to the pressure of the 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, that is made from ultralight carbon fiber.
Hybrid Air Vehicles then managed to raise over 3.4 million pounds through two crowd funding campaigns. It also received a grant from the European Union and funding from the U.K. Government.
The Airlander 10 has a significantly lower carbon footprint than other forms of air transportation, and the team behind it hopes it’ll be used in a wide range of commercial jobs.
The aircraft does not need a runway to take off, meaning it can operate from land, snow, desert, ice and even open water.