Hybrid Airship incident
Impact on EASA Certification Process?
Aviation innovation creates a bow wave of optimism—the prospective uses of a new vehicle, whether a UAS or aerocar or hypersonic aircraft create a whole range of potential uses. Before these vehicles can be put into commercial use, they must be subjected to airworthiness testing. In the wake of that process are found a lot of lost dreams.
Hopefully, this is not one such failure.
The reason why one may want the Hybrid Air Vehicle Airlander to succeed. Its unique aeronautical capabilities and load capacity portend exceptional health and welfare missions. Its commercial applications are almost unlimited.
This design is actually a major upgrade from the airship technologies. Because of its better propulsion systems, increased buoyancy (its aerodynamic body adds lift), NextGen level navigation level systems and its connection to more accurate, real time weather forecasts and other enhancements have the potential to make this a major technological breakthrough.
Unfortunately, the Airlander has had some problems.
Several months ago, an Airlander 10 hybrid airship was damaged during a testing flight (its 2nd) According to HAV, the 302-foot-long, helium-filled vessel flew for 100 minutes and made a “heavy” landing upon returning to the airfield; there were no injuries. Observers said that the two test pilots lost control of the machine at about 100 feet, from which it slowly descended nose-down at an attitude of about 30 degrees.
Based on that experience the Airlander was modified. Also, its mooring system was upgraded to a more powerful and maneuverable mobile mooring mast on a tracked vehicle. Two more test flights identified some modifications; so, HAV put the aircraft in a large hangar at Cardington for further modifications. With these changes, it made a successful sixth test flight on Friday. The Airlander had flown nearly 13 hours on these six flights.
After its sixth flight, the test vehicle was attached to its new, improved mooring. On November 20, as it prepared for another test flight, the Airlander 10 broke free from its mooring mast, and drifted across its home base at Cardington airfield near Bedford as shown in this video. Its fail safe system is designed to open the hull and deflate its helium. The winds moved the aircraft into a hedge and thus damaged the material of its envelope. That extra movement ripped the fabric beyond repairable levels.
EASA had amended the Airlander’s testing parameters to allow it to fly higher (up to 7,000 feet), faster (up to 50 knots) and farther away from its airfield (up to 75 nautical miles). It is not clear whether the mooring problem will cause EASA to reduce its recent expansive test limits. Or if EASA will change the scheduled hours to demonstrate the airship’s airworthiness. The test program had between 100 and 200 hours, although some of those hours would be customer trials and demonstration, which would be allowed within flight test phase 3.
It is possible that this incident will not impact the timeline for the EASA certification of the HAV Airlander 10.
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