The world’s largest aircraft last night (Weds) made history by taking to the sky for the first time ever.
The Airlander 10, nicknamed ‘the flying bum’ due to its unique rear end, took off at 7.40pm from Cardington Airfield, Beds., as aviation experts looked on in awe.
The helium-filled aircraft, which is part plane, part airship, was expected to be launched for its first test flight on Sunday but failed to do so because of safety concerns.
After setting off on its maiden voyage, It was airborne for around 20 minutes before it was forced to return to base before nightfall.
After it had successfully landed, manufacturers Hybrid Air Vehicles tweeted: “Landed. Just a quick flight tonight to prove the concept and needed to land before dark. #Airlander.”
Bystanders who witnessed the momentous event described seeing the Airlander 10 taking off.
Care home manager Mandy Turner, 43, who turned up for the event with her two children, said: “It was like watching a huge balloon take off.
It actually looked quite surreal in the sky, like it shouldn’t really have been there.
“I do feel like we’ve watched a moment of history which you don’t see every day so I’m glad we came down.
“We were a bit worried it wouldn’t take off after the other night but when it looked like it was going to, we couldn’t take our eyes of it.
“I’d love a chance to fly inside. Maybe one day.”
Others took to social media to share their excitement.
Sophie Allman said: “We are the proudest family being able to see the Airlander 10 airborne.”
@BurtLikesGaming wrote on Twitter: “Just watching the #Airlander on its maiden flight – what a sight to behold!! #Awesome”
Michael Serevena posted: “Awesome sight from the garden!! Kinda feel part of history!! #Airlander.”
@Bubbs1250 added: “So, this huge bloody airship just flew over my house!!!! It’s a big bugger!!! #airlander #bedford”
Christened the Martha Gwyn, the vast aircraft measures 302ft long and is around 50ft longer than the biggest passenger jets.
Engineers have spent three years working on the Airlander 10, which is filled with 1.3 million cubic feet of helium – enough to fill 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The craft produces 60 per cent of its lift aerostatically, by being lighter-than-air, and 40 per cent aerodynamically, by being wing-shaped, as well as having the ability to rotate its engines to provide an additional 25 per cent of thrust up or down.
This means the Airlander can hover as well as land on almost any surface, including ice, desert and water.
It was first developed for the US government as a long-endurance surveillance aircraft but it fell foul of defence cutbacks.
British firm Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) launched a campaign to return the Airlander 10 to the skies in May 2015.
The huge aircraft will be able to stay airborne at heights of up to 20,000ft with a 10-tonne cargo for two weeks at a time at speeds of up to 90mph.
Some have hailed the Airlander as the future of air travel because, unlike conventional aeroplanes, it emits little pollution and is not noisy enough to disturb people on the ground.
The Airlander‘s power comes from four 350hp, four-litre V8 diesel engines – two mounted at the front and two at the back.
It can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, which means it does not need a long runway to operate.
HAV claims it could be used for a variety of functions such as surveillance, communications, delivering aid and even passenger travel.
But despite being the largest aircraft in the world, it would be dwarfed by the historic zeppelins developed in Germany during the 1930s.
The Hindenburg, killed 35 during a crash in New Jersey, US, in 1937, dashing the dream of the airship as a mode of transportation for decades.
Unlike hydrogen, the gas used in the Hindenburg, helium is not flammable.