By Tereza Pultarova
The Airlander 10 airship, the world’s largest aircraft, has crashed at the Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire on Wednesday during its second test flight after a UK revamp.
The 92m aircraft, which combines the features of a helicopter and an airship, was damaged during the accident, reportedly in a failed landing.
“Airlander sustained damage on landing during today’s flight,” said a spokesman for Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), which is developing Airlander 10.
“We’re debriefing following the second test flight this morning. All crew are safe and well and there are no injuries.”
Amateur footage of the crash shows the Airlander travelling steadily at low altitude over a field before tipping forwards with its nose pointing towards the ground.
An onlooker can be heard in the video saying: “Surely you’d be worried that it’s going to smash into the ground?” Then the aircraft hits the field with its cockpit appearing to take the brunt of the impact.
The Airlander successfully completed its first test flight without incident last week. It performed one lap over the airfield before landing about half an hour later.
That was set to be the beginning of 200 hours of test flights for the aircraft, which is reportedly capable of staying in the air for five consecutive days without landing.
The 44m wide and 26m high airship has originally been developed for the US government as a long-endurance surveillance aircraft. The US later scrapped the programme due to defence funding cuts, prompting HAV to redesign and redevelop the craft for civilian purposes.
About 15m longer than the largest passenger jets, the aircraft, lifted by helium, can reach rather modest speeds of up to 150kph.
HAV claims it could be used for a variety of functions such as surveillance, communications, delivering aid and even passenger travel.
It is also hoped an Airlander 50 will eventually be developed, which would be able to transport 50 tonnes of freight.