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metal talk
2 March 2014


Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson is well known for his aviation work when he is not on Maiden duties.

His next venture is being part of the team that have launched the world's longest aircraft, which has been described as a "game-changer" with its innovative features.

The craft was unveiled in Britain's largest hangar, Cardington in Bedfordshire. The Airlander hybrid airship is 300ft (91m) long, 113ft wide and 85ft high, and is filled with 1,340,000 cubic feet (38,000 cubic metres) of helium. It can carry a payload of 10,000kg.

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The ship needs no runway, and operates with just two crew. It is 70% greener than any cargo plane.

The ship was designed by Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), whose project is being funded by a government grant as well as private finance from individuals including Bruce Dickinson. It was originally designed for military use, but is now being developed privately following budget cuts.

Bruce spoke to Radio 4's Today programme where he compared the giant craft to Thunderbird 2, and said: "It can reach about 100mph and stay airborne for about three-and-a-half weeks. This is a beautiful thing - the sheer imagination and scale of it - British-designed and built. Rarely do you get the chance to be involved in something really at the cutting edge of aviation. We have created the world's largest aircraft from a shed in Bedford. It is something to be incredibly proud of.

"I came here to a shed in about 2005 to talk about the hybrid project. I had no idea I was ever going to see my money again but everyone has busted a gut and it's brilliant to show it off to people today. In about five years' time we could have a sustainable form of aviation - much cleaner and greener. You never know, someone like Amazon could be using one of these in the future as a one-stop shop in its supply chain."

The Airlander is about 60ft longer than the biggest airliners, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8. It is also almost 30ft longer than the cargo-carrying Antonov An-225, which until now was the longest aircraft ever built. The design of the airship means that it is much more stable than traditional airships.

The Airlander is expected to carry its first passengers in 2016. Details are yet to be revealed but Bruce is hoping for some very special voyages, talking about flying round the world twice.

"It seizes my imagination. I want to get in this thing and fly it pole to pole. We'll fly over the Amazon at 20ft, over some of the world's greatest cities and stream the whole thing on the internet."


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