After more than 18 months of work, and many £millions of investment, the historic Hangar 1 at Cardington has completed its refurbishment.
The official opening of the only refurbished, purpose-built lighter-than-air hangar in the world was done so by the Mayor of Bedford.
Hangar 1, one of the largest hangars in the world, is the only purpose-built Airship Hangar in the UK, and dates back 100 years. This is the first refurbishment for over 50 years. It is an English Heritage Grade 2 building and is an iconic landmark in Bedfordshire.
The Hangar refurbishment has already brought 100 aerospace jobs to Bedford (which is Hybrid Air Vehicles’ current workforce) and will ultimately bring up to 1800 to the UK as a whole.
The Airlander is on schedule and on budget for first flight over the skies of Bedfordshire towards the end of Q1 2016.
Airlander has already secured over £60 million of customer funding, more than £6m of grants and over £12 million of equity funding. Further funding is being raised now ahead of a planned Initial Public Offering on the smaller company’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
The Airlander team said it was building an order book of commercial and military orders for trials and demonstrations and for aircraft sales.
Hybrid Air Vehicles’ CEO, Stephen McGlennan said, “We’ve got a brand new Hangar, we’ve got a brand new type of aircraft and we’ve created some brand new jobs. We’ll be finishing the assembly of the Airlander by the turn of the year and be flying early in 2016.”
There has been an impressive amount of work done on the Airlander over the past 12 months, which has been accelerated since May 5 when the Return-to-Flight programme was kicked-off. All the background preparation had been done by this time, and following a hugely successful crowdfunding (which raised £2.4 million through almost 1000 investors) additional 80 employees were hired and work started in earnest on getting the Airlander back in the air.
The key pieces of work recently have been a full engine test programme and a full hull test and inspection programme over the summer. The fins and payload module are being reassembled currently and the Airlander will be reassembled around the turn of the year.
Airlanders are low noise, low pollution, and are environmentally-friendly. They have ultra-long endurance, and a point-to-point cargo-carrying capacity. They can take off and land vertically and operate from a range of remote environments including water, desert, ice and fields. An independent market summary shows the market for this new type of aircraft is worth $50 billion over the next 20 years. The company’s business plan expects a valuation of the company of between £300-500 million within 5 years, and in this process 1,800 new jobs will be created in the UK.
Look out for the Airlander in the skies of Bedfordshire above the Cardington Hangars in early 2016.