More than 6 months after its landing crash, the Airlander 10 is expected to return to the air. For the past few months, Hybrid Air Vehicles has been working on the refurbishment of its aircraft, and has made more than sixty modifications. The investigation of the Air Accident Investigation Branch, the British equivalent of the French Bureau of Investigations and Analysis, was published on 9 March. Back on the facts and explanations.
On August 24, 2016, 6 days after a successful first test flight, the Airlander 10 missed its landing on its second test flight. The consequences are happily confined to material damage on the cockpit, the pilot and the test engineer getting out without a scratch. The images of this crash have made the tour of the world, this event being even called “the slowest crash in the world”.
As a reminder, the Airlander 10 is a flexible hybrid steerable aircraft (40% of its lift is ensured by the aerodynamic shape of its envelope). It is powered by 4 Technify Centurion C4.0 piston engines. The Airlander 10 was developed and produced in 2009 by the British firm Hybrid Air Vehicles in partnership with Northrop Grumman to respond to the American DoD (Long Endurance Multi-purpose Vehicle) call for tender. The HAV-304 (its denomination at the time) made a single demonstration flight in 2012 in Lakehurst, and was bought out in 2013 by HAV and repatriated to England for repackaging and refit.
With its 92 m long, 44 m wide and 24 m high, the Airlander 10 is considered to be the largest aircraft in the world currently in flight. It has a cruising speed of 148 km / h (80 kts), a ceiling of 6,100 m (20,000 ft), a 5-day endurance and a 10-ton payload for an unladen mass of 20 tons .
Incident, Accident, Crash?
The question is often asked. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO / ICAO) defines an accident as an event related to the operation of an aircraft between the time when the first person embarks and until the last person disembarks from The aircraft and during which:
– A person is fatally or seriously injured or,
– The aircraft suffers structural damage or defect or,
– The aircraft is considered to be missing or totally inaccessible.
Still according to the ICAO definition, there are several levels of accidents (Catastrophic, Major, Minor, Incident). As the Airlander suffered minor material damage, this event can be considered a minor accident. The AAIB also refers to the term accident throughout its report.
Let us go back to the facts. The AAIB report states that on this second test flight, the Airlander 10 was piloted by a 61-year-old pilot with a commercial pilot license and a total of 12,700 flying hours, four of them Airlander 10.
On 24 August 2016, under a calm weather with a variable wind of 2 kts, the Airlander 10 took off from its base at Cardington at 8:12. According to the report of the AAIB, this second test flight takes place without addicts. 98 minutes after take-off, the Airlander 10 successfully completes an approach phase and presents itself at its berthing site. 2:12 after takeoff, the Airlander 10 strikes the ground at low speed with an angle of 18 °. Following this accident, the flight crew was evacuated, the Airlander 10 was secured to its mast and then returned to its hangar.