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01 April 2014

Iron Maiden frontman funds world’s biggest aircraft project

Bruce Dickinson owns the sausage-waving world of celebrity toyboxes

Matthew Jones
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In the world of rock n roll, more is more, and most wins. Take Aerosmith frontman and owner of the world's most implausible lips, Steven Tyler - he's got a Hennessey Venom GT Spyder. Hat enthusiast and AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson owns a 1928 Le Mans-bodied 4.5-litre Bentley that James has driven. And John Travolta has his own jumbo jet. And airport.

But Iron Maiden frontman, Bruce Dickinson, has just won it all. Hands down. No question. He's just invested Rs 2.73 crore on a 91.4-meter-long airship project called the HAV Airlander. Which is the biggest aircraft... in the world.

Produced by British aeronautics firm Hybrid Air Vehicles, the Airlander is 18.2 meters longer than a Boeing 747, and powered by four turbocharged V8 diesel engines that produce 350bhp a pop and power a cluster of propellers in the back.

Top speed? Just 160kph. That said, it weighs 38 tonnes, can carry 50 tonnes of cargo, and will remain airborne for 21 days straight provided you can sate its 3718.7-litre daily fuel thirst. That's 50 times more than a helicopter can carry and 70 per cent more efficient than a cargo plane. It only needs a crew of two, too.

So, why does it look so... priapic? HAV tells us that the Airlander's design is far cleverer than its Hindenberg aesthetics suggest. It uses a series of enormous bladders filled with inert helium to get it airborne, helped along by the hull's shape which actually produces the same aerodynamic lift as an aeroplane's wing.

Underneath, instead of normal landing gear you'd finder under most commercial jets, it uses skids landing system, which is basically a lot of pneumatic tubes that inflate so it can set down on land, sand or water without using an airstrip.This'll make it ideal for transporting goods to disaster-stricken areas, or transporting heavy equipment for oil or mining companies. There's more info in this video.

Unsurprisingly, Dickinson's thinking of a slightly different application. He told the BBC: "I want to go on a non-stop flight around the world - twice. We'll fly over the Amazon at 20ft, over some of the world's greatest cities and stream the whole thing on the internet".

What'll it take to out-do Dickinson's massive airship, then?

Tags: iron maiden, bruce dickinson, airlander

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