Hybrid Air Vehicles Plans Airlander Test Flight

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Hybrid Air Vehicles of England plans to test fly its Airlander 10 in March for the first time. The aircraft is a combination of lighter-than-air, airplane and helicopter concepts and resembles an airship. It's capable of high-altitude flight, although the first test will be limited to 4,000 feet over a two-hour flight, according to the Independent. Chris Daniels of Hybrid Air Vehicles told the UK newspaper the test will be "a pretty gentle flight around the block" and remain near home base at Cardington Airfield, Bedford. 

The Airlander is designed to stay aloft for up to five days if manned or at least two weeks unmanned, according to the company's website. It's about 300 feet long and 85 feet high and is touted as "hyper-efficient." Potential uses for private and military missions include surveying, communication, and cargo. The aircraft was set to become part of a U.S. Army project when the company won a $500 million contract in 2010, according to HAV's website. But military cuts resulted in the Airlander's return to England, and since then the company has obtained funding through European government grants and shareholders. While military use remains part of the business plan, the Airlander can be configured to carry up to 48 passengers in comfort, according to the Independent's report. "It will probably be the second aircraft we make that will be a passenger variant. We've had a lot of interest in operators looking at luxury tourism and safaris and various sorts of leisure flying," Daniels said.