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Airlander has increased its scope after next phase of tests

20 November 2017

Airlander 10 commences the next stage of flight testing, known as Airworthiness Release 2a (AWR2a), which will see it fly higher, faster, further and longer.

Airlander coming in to land (Credit: Hybrid Air Vehicles)

Early on Friday 17 November 2017, Airlander was guided into the sky by Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns on her sixth test flight, the first in this next stage of expanded flight tests.

Airlander has now embarked upon the 2nd phase of test-flying, known as Airworthiness Release 2a (AWR2a). Having EASA, Airlander’s regulator, validate the flight test data so far and agree that it is safe to fly in a wider range of conditions is an important moment in Airlander’s journey. AWR2a permits Airlander to fly higher (up to 7,000 feet), faster (up to 50 knots) and further away from its airfield (up to 75 nautical miles away), but most crucially allows her to undertake display and demonstration activity.

A number of modifications were carried out in preparation for this next phase of testing; the most noticeable change is the fairing attached between the hull and the mission module, which will reduce drag at the higher speeds at which the Airlander will be travelling.

Chief Test Pilot Dave Burns was joined by Andrew Barber, as Flight Test Engineer (Andrew’s full working title is Airworthiness and Flight Safety Engineer), whilst Allistair McDicken, Interim Head of Flight Test Organisation & Lead Flight Test Engineer, looked on from the ground.

“It was a fantastic new flying experience and I am very excited about soon being able to fly on the Airlander around the UK and share some of that thrill with more of the country,” said Andrew Barber, who was on board the Airlander for the very first time. 

Another little crash…

On the 18 November, there was an incident with Airlander at Cardington airfield. It seems the aircraft broke free from its mooring mast for reasons that are still being investigated and two members of staff suffered minor injuries.

Hybrid Air Vehicles has said “the aircraft has a safety system which operates automatically in circumstances of the aircraft breaking free of its mast, and is designed to rip open the hull and deflate the aircraft. This is a safety feature to ensure our aircraft minimises any potential damage to its surroundings in these circumstances. The aircraft is now deflated and secure on the edge of the airfield. The fuel and helium inside the Airlander have been made safe. We are testing a brand new type of aircraft and incidents of this nature can occur during this phase of development. We will assess the cause of the incident and the extent of repairs needed to the aircraft in the next few weeks.”

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