World’s Longest Airship Goes Bottoms Up In Crash

The 'butt-shaped' Airship 10 suffered damage in its second test flight

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.

Witnesses reported that a line hanging down from the airship snagged a wire, bringing the whole vehicle into a nosedive down.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Hybrid Air Vehicles gave this statement about the crash:

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.

https://twitter.com/jmmelican/status/768455530360610816/

Watch the landing attempt below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg-RPTiVa_Q

Update In a statement published August 25th, 2016, Hybrid Air Vehicles “can confirm a mooring line attached to the Airlander did contact a power line outside the airfield. No damage was caused to the aircraft and this did not contribute to the heavy landing. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused to anyone.”

Kelsey D. Atherton
Kelsey D. Atherton

is a defense technology journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work on drones, lethal AI, and nuclear weapons has appeared in Slate, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.