‘Substantial Damage’ For Airlander
Officials at Airlander said this week their pre-production aircraft suffered “substantial damage” when it detached from its moorings on Nov. 18. As of Monday, the 300-foot-long aircraft was still “deflated and secure” on the edge of the airfield, where it landed, but it will be recovered and returned to Hangar 2 in Cardington, England, the company said. The aircraft is covered by insurance for up to 32 million pounds in damages. The incident followed “a very successful flight test,” the company said, and while the damage will “no doubt impact our timescales and plans,” the project to develop the aircraft will go forward. The aircraft was tethered to a mooring mast when it broke free and automatically deflated.
"We are testing a brand-new type of aircraft, and incidents of this nature can occur during this phase of development,” the company said, in a news release. "We will assess the cause of the incident and the extent of repairs needed to the aircraft in the next few weeks." The Airlander depends on helium for lift and has no rigid internal structure. The aircraft was also damaged on its second test flight, last year, when it made a hard nose-down landing, damaging the cockpit. Nobody was seriously hurt in either incident.