WATCH: Lift off: Pictures as Airlander takes to the skies for historic first flight

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The maiden flight of the giant Airlander turned into a king-size anti-climax when it had to be cancelled at the last minute on Sunday.

But three days later spirits lifted as the massive machine finally roared into life and took to the skies.

Suspense was running high on Wednesday when, three hours after the scheduled 4pm launch, the Airlander was still firmly on the ground at Cardington airfield.

By 7pm it had done a pirouette in front of excited journalists.

Finally, at 7.43pm, it soared into action, completing laps of the airfield at a couple of thousand feet.

“It was amazing and so worth waiting for!” said one witness.

Hybrid Air Vehicles, the company behind the Airlander, tweeted proudly: “How brilliant is this? Testament to a GREAT British innovation and an amazing small company.”

One wag tweeted ‘bottoms up’ to the Airlander, which has been dubbed the Flying Bum because of its unusual shape,

Wednesday’s excitement made up for Sunday’s disappointment when hundreds of people had lined up along the road outside the airfield to see the maiden launch, which was kept top secret until the day itself.

But a “technical issue” meant the test flight had to be aborted for safety reasons.

The part plane, part airship can only fly in daylight for a test flight and it was feared the flight would not be completed before dark by the time the technical problem issue was resolved.

The Airlander’s progress is being followed by people from all over the country. It hit the headlines last year when Hybrid Air Vehicles launched a Crowdfunding campaign to return it to the skies.

They raised a whopping £2.1m through 983 people keen to invest in the biggest aircraft in the world.

First developed for the US government as a long-endurance surveillance aircraft, the Airlander was the victim of defence cutbacks.

Now HAV say the massive machine, which is affectionately called Mary by their engineers, will also be perfect for delivering aid to other countries, communications and even passenger travel.

At 302ft long, it is 50ft longer than the average passenger jet. Once launched, it will be able to stay airborne for around five days.

The project was awarded more than £2m in EU research funding .

A spokesman for HAV said: “Airlanders are low noise, low pollution and are environmentally friendly. They can take off and land in a short distance from unprepared sites in deserts, ice, water or open field environments.”