The developer of the Airlander hybrid airship says it has repaired damage to its cockpit, sustained when it crashed on its second flight last August, and is looking to get the world’s largest flying structure airborne again in the next few weeks.
“Airlander is now structurally complete ahead of hangar exit and resuming the flight test programme. A rigorous testing and training programme has now commenced to prepare for Airlander taking to the skies again,” the Bedford-based company says.
It says flight deck instrument panels, the overhead console and associated wiring have been “reinstalled successfully”, adding that “power-on has been achieved and on-aircraft testing has begun”.
The accident took place on 24 August – seven days after the first flight – at the end of a roughly 100min sortie near HaV’s facility at Cardington, during which the pilots had taken the aircraft to 3,000ft and executed a series of turns at air speeds up to 35kt (65km/h). After a successful first landing, an “issue with the mooring mast” prompted the commander to take-off again and circle the airfield while the mast was being repaired, the company said at the time
During the second take-off, the 50m nose mooring line dropped free and trailed beneath the Airlander. The captain then decided to make a “higher-than-desired” approach to avoid the trailing line snagging on a fence or trees.
The high approach resulted in the aircraft hovering 120ft above the ground, something that was “outside the normal operating envelope”. Although the pilot retained control of the aircraft during the descent, HAV says, the “nose dropped, resulting in a low-speed impact” before the aircraft settled into a level condition on the ground. The crew shut down the engines and exited the aircraft, while the ground crew secured it to the mast. Neither pilot was hurt.
The flight test programme is likely to entail the completion of about six flights, or 20h, during the first phase, before a second, 80h phase sees the aircraft being taken to 10,000ft and flown at 65kt. A final phase of up to 200h will introduce night flights and flights outside visual flight rules, and of a distance of more than 75nm (140km) from Cardington.
The prototype Airlander 10 was originally built for a US military contract that was cancelled four years ago, with HAV buying back the rights to the design minus a series of US-designed avionics features covered by export restrictions. The company plans to construct a second example as the type-certificated aircraft.
Hybrid Air Vehicles’ chief executive, Stephen McGlennan, says: “We’re delighted to have made the progress we have in our repairs and look forward to restarting our test flight programme soon.”