NEWS BRIEF The world’s longest aircraft—larger than a Boeing 747 and as long as eight double-decker British buses—took flight late Wednesday night.
The aircraft is called the Airlander 10, and it’s part plane, part helicopter, and part dirigible, aka blimp. It measures 302 feet long and cruises at a comfortable 90 miles per hour, or almost one-seventh the speed of a regular passenger plane.
The hodgepodge aircraft, built by the British company Hybrid Air Vehicles, took flight for 30 minutes in a rural airfield in Bedfordshire, England. Here it is in action:
The plane has been compared to a giant football, and, most notably, to a “flying bum.” Two helium-filled hulls help lift the plane, and the craft can carry more than 22,000 pounds of cargo and stay suspended for weeks. It was originally funded by the U.S. military to fly spy and delivery missions above battlefields in Afghanistan. And at under $40 million to build, the Airlander 10 costs one-tenth the price of the superjumbo Airbus A380. It is that price point, combined with the fact that it burns just a fifth of the fuel as commercial aircraft, that its manufacturer hopes will attract buyers. So far, however, it has attracted mostly relentless mocking for its resemblance to a derriere.