There’s a Reason They Call the World’s Biggest Aircraft ‘The Flying Bum’

It's all in the bulbousness.

August 10, 2016 9:00 am

If the StayPuft Marshmallow Man had a private jet it might, in fact, look quite a lot like what is now the world’s largest aircraft: the Airlander 10 airship.

The nomenclature hints at the fact that the Airlander is not, in fact, a plane: it’s a helium-buoyant aircraft, first developed as a “Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle” for the U.S. Army and now adapted by Hybrid Air Vehicles, a British manufacturer, for civilian usage. This 302-foot craft made its public debut over the weekend, as crews prepared it for ground tests in advance of its first flight. 

The Airlander 10 might not look like much — well, except what’s alluded to in its nickname, “the Flying Bum” — but it has some significant advantages over traditional planes: it’s quieter, less energy-intensive and can stay afloat for five days

On the con side: the Airlander has “no internal structure”: it maintains its shape thanks to the force of helium against its shell, made from “a strong liquid crystal polymer called Vectran.”

Something to keep in mind before booking your first passage on these ships of the future.


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