Testing begins on engines for world's largest aircraft

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Hybrid Air Vehicles has started the Airlander 10 engine program, a series of full engine tests designed to bring the world’s largest aircraft into commercial operation.

The 92m long Airlander can take-off and land from a range of surfaces, including water, and carry passengers. Four 325hp, 4l V8 direct injection, turbocharged diesel engines help Airlander to fly for five days non-stop.

In flight, two engines are mounted forward on the hull and two on the stern of the hull for cruise operation. All four are configured in ducts with blown vanes to allow vectored thrust for take-off/landing/ground handling operation.

The current engine tests are focused on identifying future improvements to Airlander propulsion systems prior to a series of trials and demonstrations with a range of civil and military customers during 2016.

The latest milestone in Airlander’s development has been made possible with assistance from Innovate UK and a £3.4m Regional Growth Fund Grant.

According to HAV, Innovate UK’s LOCATE (Low Carbon Aircraft Technology Experimentation) programme has supported key work in aerodynamics, automation and manufacturing technologies, and has underpinned the company’s ability to hire new staff in 2014.

In a statement Tom Grundy, HAV’s operations director said, ‘Airlander is an aircraft that can carry very large loads long distances and/or remain airborne for weeks at a time. We are showing customers worldwide that this can be a game-changer in many different airborne applications. [This] run of our highly efficient engine system is a big step towards the next flight of Airlander, and towards flight demonstrations of the aircraft’s capability in 2016.’

According to HAV, the market for Airlander aircraft has been independently validated at over $50bn over the next 20 years, representing an opportunity to create over 1,800 high-tech jobs in the UK.