Thursday, September 2, 2021

Headline of the Day

World’s Largest Aircraft Mocked for Looking Like Giant Butt”  From a site called Futurism, and strictly because the headline caught my eye on Rantingly.  

Behold, the world’s largest aircraft: a gigantic airship called the Airlander 10 that, when viewed from a certain angle, looks a whole lot like a ginormous — and possibly, uh, plugged — butt.

The Airlander 10, for all of its glory, has a bit of a troubled past. It was originally designed in 2010 by the US military as a way to provide surveillance in Afghanistan for up to two weeks at a time, but the project was scrapped just two years later.

The story picks up from there, but I know you're waiting to see the picture, so here's the photo they link to on Instagram. 

Tough act to follow, but I'll note it only really looks like a butt from that angle. 

Although the original US DOD contract was cancelled, British developer Hybrid Air Vehicles kept the designs in case the desire for such an airship came back.  Lighter than air vehicles, airships, get talked about fairly frequently as some sort of wonderful green alternative to conventional aviation: remember this 2019 story about using gigantic airships in place of cargo container ships?  It seems they were smart to keep it as an option as a customer wants at least one.

A company called OceanSky Cruises is launching a new luxury air cruise to and from the North Pole in order to recreate a historic expedition Norwegian explorers undertook in 1926, CNN reported earlier this month. At the time, CNN noted that a newer, commercial version of the Airlander 10 was a top candidate for OceanSky’s vehicle of choice — and OceanSky has since confirmed that it will in fact be using the gigantic floating butt.

The combination of characteristics airships fly with; compared to a conventional aircraft they go slowly and they can go quite low, actually does seem like a smart fit for the kind of cruises that OceanSky wants to do.  I have no idea how many people are likely to sign up for such a trip, but that's their business - literally.  They're betting the money to develop the trips and buy the airship isn't wasted. 

The journey will make use of the Airlander 10’s ability to fly extremely slowly and close to the ground in order to give tourists amazing views of local wildlife and scenery — illustrating the tradeoff of low speed but high versatility that comes from flying in an airship rather than a plane.

“We can go down to 300 feet, even 100 feet if needed, as slow as a bike,” pilot Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck told CNN, “in order to offer our passengers a glimpse of those polar habitats to our passengers,”

It's not the most flattering image out there, but if you want to know what Airlander 10 looks like other than from the butt angle, this is an image of it after an early test flight that concluded less than optimally.

Photo credit on the top right of the frame, South Beds News Agency.  From the Futurism website.


  1. That thing looks a heck of a lot like another blimp at a place I used to work. Different logos, same general shape. Different fan configuration. I guess one gasbag is going to look a lot like another.

    Requiring that airships operate with helium only sort of cripples them IMO. Helium is extremely expensive anymore, and you can't afford to just vent it to drop buoyancy. Hydrogen provides twice the lifting capacity per volume, and it seems like you would have better luck trying to engineer firewalls/neutral-gas-envelopes to deal with the flammability issue than making filling one of these things a multi-million dollar proposition. Also hydrogen is cheap. You can vent it or burn it off if you need to drop buoyancy.


    1. Yep, Hydrogen is the way to go. Easy to separate from water, easy to store (with the proper membranes) and the airship can even carry a small separator with them to 'top off the tanks.'

      Just don't wrap your airship with flammable aluminum paint and then forget to ground the vehicle correctly (which, well, Hindenburg...)

  2. I think I'd take a pass on the ride - even for free.

  3. One wonders how long it will take until someone has to mount a rescue mission for the tourists therein.

    And then there is this:

    1. It's a breaking story - a friend sent me another link this morning, too. I haven't studied the two of them for differences, but:

      Apparently they both are about the vehicle having an indication that it was going outside of it's prearranged flight path. Out of controlled air space.

  4. Just like that my mind supplied, "I like big blimps and I cannot lie......"

    In line with what Beans said, hydrogen lift airships have a bad reputation, but we all drive with multiple gallons of highly flammable gasoline in a fairly flimsy storage tank beneath our vehicles.

    1. If you hover your mouse over the screen capture from Instagram, you'll notice that I named the file "Big_ol'_Butt." Which is a repeated line from another song, "Doin' Da Butt"

      From 1988, and like Blazing Saddles, probably couldn't be made today.

    2. And if the first commercially available gas automobile had exploded in a flaming ball of gas on the front page of every newspaper in the world, killing multiple passengers, after the military had crashed half a dozen of them with the loss of all onboard, over and over, the sale of the second one would have been tough sledding over rocks.

      The Hindenburg was exactly what should have happened.

      The oly reason we didn't get the same reaction from Titanic was that ships had been around for 10,000 earlier, but if you think that disaster didn't put the spurs to airliner development and making passenger liners obsolete for tranposrt rather than pure tourism, you weren't paying attention.

      Pure tourism is the only reason this thing has a shot either.
      I can imagine a tour group floating over the Serengeti, just above the danger zone for predators.

      But the first group that gets eaten by crocodiles or trampled by wild beasts after a crash or forced landing, and that idea takes it in the neck for all time as well.

      People who listen to the signals from their limbic survival sense are called "ancestors". Those who don't are called "lunch".

  5. Indeed that blimp does appear to Make the Rockin' World Go 'Round.