The sky is forgiving. It's the ground that isn't. The Airlander 10, a long and bulbous airship that borrows design features both from flexible blimps and rigid zeppelins, is trying to fill a void in the sky largely abandoned after the Hindenburg crash. It's a large vehicle, faster than a cargo boat and slower than a cargo plane, and has a distinctive shape that calls to mind a certain human part of human anatomy, to the delight of journalists everywhere.
But is it a viable shipping vehicle? Maybe, but it has to stick the landing first. And on its second test flight earlier today in central England, the Airlander 10 encountered some difficulties on its approach to the ground.
When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hybrid Air Vehicles gave this statement about the crash:
Today the prototype Airlander 10 undertook its second test flight earlier today and flew for 100 minutes, completing all the planned tasks before returning to Cardington to land. The Airlander experienced a heavy landing and the front of the flight deck has sustained some damage which is currently being assessed. Both pilots and the ground crew are safe and well and the aircraft is secured and stable at its normal mooring location. Hybrid Air Vehicles runs a robust set of procedures for flight test activities and investigation of issues. We will be running through these in the days ahead as we continue the development of the Airlander aircraft. Further updates will follow in due course.”
Lessons like this are the reason aircraft have test flights, so that the problems can be seen now and protected against in the future. For the world's longest aircraft (the Airlander 10 is 302 feet from tip to toe), part of the challenge may just be finding big enough open and empty spaces to land in.
Of course, there are other theories.
Watch the landing attempt below: