Bedford’s Airlander 10 WILL soar to success again after its hopes and dreams were deflated to a pile of ‘wreckage’ last weekend.
That’s the promise of Hybrid Air Vehicles, whose experts are still investigating Saturday morning’s bizarre incident.
After a glowingly successful test flight last Friday, the Airlander was tethered in its usual place at Cardington.
Hours later – on Saturday morning, the craft broke free – despite the super-high tensile metal tethering designed to withstand even the strongest winds.
A female member of staff noticed the Airlander bobbing unusually despite the low wind.
She raised the alarm and drove across the airfield to investigate – only to see the machine that is as big as a football pitch heading straight towards her.
“It bounced off her car. Luckily she only suffered cuts and bruises – though she was taken to hospital as a precaution,” said an HAV spokesman.
Meanwhile the Airlander continued its untethered journey – and at this point staff thanked their lucky stars that its safety mechanism designed for just such situations worked 100 per efficiently.
“The hull that contains the helium is designed to rip apart to allow the gas to escape and the craft to deflate,” said the spokesman.
“If that didn’t happen, you’d have a 20 tonne mass floating freely. It would be dangerous to say the least.”
The Airlander came to rest in a crumpled heap on the edge of the airfield. Staff rushed to the scene and one of them slipped and fell, cutting his face.
Now HAV experts, who have spent seven years building the machine and recently announced plans to turn it into a luxury passenger craft, are trying to work out what caused the tethering to fail.
Due to HAV’s high security, they say sabotage is unlikely. Staff error, along with a string of other causes, cannot be ruled out.
“The fact is that we are insured. If we can repair this craft then we will. If we can’t, then we will build another one. The Airlander WILL fly again,” said the spokesman.