As we prepare to launch the Airlander 10 production and type certification programme, we have released new visuals of the production aircraft. The production design features numerous changes improving efficiency, reducing drag, maximising functionality for our customers across all sectors, and providing improved maintainability and an architecture ready to accept the technologies needed to deliver all-electric flight.
Our Flight Sciences team have completed extensive Computational Fluid Design (CFD) work and wind tunnel testing at Mercedes Grand Prix. By enhancing and refining the shape of the production Airlander 10, along with modifications to the payload module, landing gear and propulsors, drag has been significantly reduced when compared to the prototype. This means the production Airlander 10 will burn very little fuel during flight – achieving up to 75% lower carbon emissions than comparable aircraft. The updated design means Airlander 10 is ready to incorporate new electric technologies as they become available. The future hybrid-electric configuration will deliver up to 90% lower carbon emissions in some roles.
The handling properties in all modes of flight (take-off, climb, cruise, descent, and landing) have been greatly improved, reducing pilot workload and increasing environmental operating limits, such as wind speed. The use of all the flight test data we collected from the prototype and our flight training device has allowed us to study the pilot workload for the new aircraft, compared with the prototype.
The inclusion of a bow thruster will further improve handling at slow speeds and on the ground.
Improved Forward Propulsion
The production standard Airlander 10 has a new forward propulsion system, including unducted propulsors. This new system provides considerably more vectored thrust control, aiding the pilot during take-off and landing. The unducted propulsors also mean a reduction in weight and less drag in flight.
Larger Available Cabin
The team have redesigned the cabin providing much more internal cabin floor space. The full-length main cabin (excluding flight deck) offers 2,100 square feet of floor space. At its largest, the payload module will be approximately 46 metres long and 6 metres wide. The payload module is offered in shorter lengths for customers who require external mounting space or do not require a full-length interior.
Having maintained the prototype aircraft outside the hangar during flight test, we were able to redesign many of the access points to make it possible to perform most maintenance, replacements, and standard repairs easily while the aircraft is on the mooring mast.
Updated Landing Gear
The new landing gear on the production Airlander 10 will be fully retractable in flight, which means significantly reduced drag and better passenger views. The landing gear will provide increased ground clearance and enhanced ground stability removing the need for a major piece of ground handling equipment.
We aim to type certify the production Airlander 10 with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). We maintain good relationships with the EASA and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) teams to ensure we meet civil certification safety requirements. The engagement of both bodies will allow the Type Certified Airlander to be operated worldwide.
Throughout our work to complete the production design, the team made sure that the aircraft could be delivered worldwide efficiently as we scale up production to our full rate of 12 aircraft per year. We have also kept our goal of delivering zero-carbon aviation in mind. The production aircraft’s design allows for uncomplicated retrofit of new technologies including electric propulsion, throughout the lifetime of the aircraft, ensuring that our customers continue to have the world-leading technology as they operate Airlander 10.