The world’s biggest airship now flying the skies in England was paid for in part by Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson after having been sold off by a budget-conscience U.S. Pentagon.
The HAV 304 “Airlander” is a bit over 300 feet long, which makes it the largest airship in the world. It is 60 feet longer than a 747 jet liner, 80 feet longer than Howard Hughes’ famed Spruce Goose, and 30 feet longer than the previous record holder, the Antonov An-225.
This iteration of the Airlander was manufactured by the British-based company Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company hopes to market these airships for up to $100 million each.
Weighing in at 100 tons, the Airlander can fly at 100 miles per hour and is even capable of hovering in place for 21 days, though it costs 818 gallons of fuel each day to achieve that feat. The ship is powered by four turbocharged V8 diesel engines.
The airship can land on practically any sort of surface big enough to accommodate its girth. Sand, earth, water, the Airlander can land on them all. Plus, unlike traditional balloons or Zeppelins, because it is heavier than air the Airlander can land on its own without the need for people on the ground to pull it down with ropes.
“All these features,” Wired wrote, “make it perfectly suited for disaster relief, or-more likely-transporting heavy equipment for oil or mining companies.”
The Airlander was created for the U.S. Army originally, but budget worries caused the Pentagon to cut its funding. After having spent $4.1 million on developing the airship, the government sold the original model (the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, or the LEMV) for a mere $301,000.
After the British firm bought the original craft and had it shipped disassembled across the seas, Rock-n-Roller Dickinson paid $450,000 of his own money into the project.
Dickinson says that he plans to fly the Airlander around the world. “We’ll fly over the Amazon at 20 feet, over some of the world’s greatest cities and stream the whole thing on the internet,” he said.
The company wants to produce as many as 10 of the airships and also wants to build an even bigger one than the current model. The bigger one is to support 50 metric tons of cargo and carry 50 passengers.