Aerospace & Defence

World's first full sized hybrid aircraft

22nd March 2016
Jordan Mulcare

BOC and a long-standing player in the lighter-than-air sector as partner to many of the world's largest aerospace assemblers and manufacturers, is sponsoring the First Flight of the Airlander, the world's first full sized hybrid aircraft. The vision of UK-based manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the Airlander is one of the largest and one of the greenest aircraft in the world.

It is scheduled to make its first public flight in Spring 2016, followed by a programme of commercial test flights. Helium forms a critical part of the ‘Return to Flight' flight testing programme and BOC has supplied the helium gas to HAV in preparation for Airlander's first public flight.

Founded in 2007 and a world leader in the ‘hybrid' technology of mixing aerodynamic and aerostatic lift, HAV has been using one of the two Grade 2 listed hangars at Cardington, Bedfordshire, as the base for both the design and manufacture of the world's first hybrid aircraft. This lighter-than-air vehicle has been developed for ultra-endurance roles, such as communications, search and rescue and maritime patrol and also for transportation of heavy goods and cargo air travel, particularly in remote regions and austere environments.

The Airlander range of hybrid aircraft has been developed to meet two significant aviation needs:

  • The ability to stay airborne for days and weeks at a time in order to achieve communications, surveillance, search and survey tasks.
  • To transport heavy goods and aid point-to-point, without the need for expensive airport infrastructure.

The Airlander utilises lighter-than-air technology to produce a vehicle that operates with less noise, less pollution, has a lower carbon footprint, longer endurance and better cargo-carrying capacity than other forms of air transportation. BOC's helium has assisted Airlander to deliver the above benefits as it provides a ‘free lift' - described as such because it doesn't need to burn fuel to get off the ground.

BOC, a Member of The Linde Group, has access to 25% of the world's commercially available helium, ensuring HAV security of supply and peace of mind. Through recent investment in a UK helium transfill facility, BOC has more cylinders, liquid dewars, bulk tube trailers and people dedicated to its helium business than any other supplier in the UK.

Nathan Palmer, BOC's Director of Bulk and Packaged Gases, said: "BOC is delighted to sponsor the Airlander and to be working with Hybrid Air Vehicles. We have supplied aerospace customers in the UK for decades and it is fabulous to be working with such an innovative partner like HAV and helping them achieve their vision. This is very much aligned with BOC's wider ambitions to play a leading role in lower carbon transportation and we look forward to supporting their ambitious plans."

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