Airlander 10 helium-filled airship makes first flight

The Airlander 10 is a massive flying airship said to be the world's largest aircraft. The giant airship took to the skies for the first time this week with a short flight over an airfield in the UK. Airlander 10 is massive at 302-feet long and its maiden flight happened at Cardington airfield about 45 miles north of London.

Airlander 10 has some capabilities of several different flying machines; it is part blimp, part helicopter, and part airplane. The bulbous clefted front end looks rather like an arse and has earned the flying machine the nickname "Flying Bum." The maiden flight lasted about half an hour and saw the airship moving around the area of the airfield.

The machine was developed by a firm called Hybrid Air Vehicles and the designers claim that the airship can reach altitudes of 16,000 feet and Travel at speeds up to 90mph. "It's a great British innovation," said chief executive Stephen McGlennan. "It's a combination of an aircraft that has parts of normal fixed-wing aircraft, it's got helicopter, it's got airship."

The program started as a project for the US military that had originally planned to use the giant airship as a surveillance platform in Afghanistan. That program was scrapped in 2013, but Hybrid Air Vehicles continued to develop the platform. Any talk of airships inevitably brings to mind the infamous Hindenburg disaster caused when the airship caught fire and the flammable hydrogen used inside ignited. The Flying Bum is filled with helium, which is non-flammable. The designers see the airship as a way to transport people and goods to and from areas that lack runways.

McGlennan said, "[Airlander can] provide air transportation for people and goods without the need for a runway. But this thing can take more over longer distances, it's cheaper and it's greener."