Inspecting the hull of the world’s largest aircraft

The first full inspection of Airlander’s hull was completed last week by Hybrid Air Vehicles’ team of aerospace technicians as part of ongoing analysis during the Flight Test Progamme.

world's largest aircraft - Safety ropes are permanently attached to the Airlander hull and technicians undertook rigorous training to ensure the highest safety standards - image courtesy of Hybrid Air Vehicles.
Safety ropes are permanently attached to the Airlander hull and technicians undertook rigorous training to ensure the highest safety standards – image courtesy of Hybrid Air Vehicles.

This was the first annual yearly check of the Airlander’s hull surface, as a part of its flight test programme. Having passed the inspection, Airlander is now ready to demonstrate its airborne capability to its customers as its flight programme continues.

A team of Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) technicians recently completed a full hull inspection of Airlander using simple, safe and rope access techniques developed to make maintaining the unique aircraft routine. 

Previously employed for routine engine maintenance and inspection, the ascender system now offers easy access to all the upper surfaces and systems of the Airlander,

This was the first time the access process had been used outside on the hull following development inside the hangar. This technique is reportedly crucial to enabling Airlander to demonstrate its ability to be maintained outside, without the need of a permanent hangar.

At 26m tall (around the same height as four stacked double-decker buses), Airlander requires great care and thought to be put into maintenance techniques. Safety ropes are permanently attached to the hull and technicians reportedly undertook rigorous training to ensure the highest safety standards.

Maintenance, modification and ground operations manager, Ivan Pope commented: “Being up on the hull is a fantastic experience – I didn’t want to come down! It was a privilege to be part of the small team that performed the scheduled safety checks. We were pleased to find no major issues, further proving Airlander’s resilience.”

About Hybrid Air Vehicles

At 26m tall, Airlander is around the same height as four stacked double-decker buses - image courtesy of Hybrid Air Vehicles.
At 26m tall, Airlander is around the same height as four stacked double-decker buses – image courtesy of Hybrid Air Vehicles.

Founded in 2007, Hybrid Air Vehicles is the company behind the innovative Airlander range of hybrid aircraft.

HAV utilises new aerospace technology that combines the best of the characteristics of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters with lighter-than-air technology to create a new breed of hyper-efficient aircraft, with a significantly lower carbon footprint and operating cost than other forms of air transport.

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 in a short distance from unprepared sites in desert, ice, water, or open field environments.

Airlander 10 is designed to stay airborne for up to five days at a time to fulfil a wide range of communication and survey roles, as well as cargo carrying and tourist passenger flights.