IRON MAIDEN singer Bruce Dickinson spoke to The New Yorker magazine about his involvement in unveiling the world's largest aircraft. The Hybrid Air Vehicle (HAV), which has been named Airlander, can stay airborne for up to three weeks and will be vital in delivering several tons of humanitarian aid.
Airlanders are low noise, low pollution, and are environmentally friendly. They have ultra-long endurance, and a point-to-point cargo-carrying capacity. They can take off and land vertically and operate from a range of remote environments including water, desert, ice and fields.
The 302-foot-long Airlander 10 is set to make its maiden flight later this month from its home at Cardington, England — 40 miles from London.
Dickinson, who has reportedly invested around £250,000 ($360,000) in the Airlander, told The New Yorker: "You want to put a hospital into Africa? You put the whole hospital in the inside of this — whoosh. Start the generator. 'Here's your hospital, buddy!' Job done. You know? You can just plunk the vehicle straight down on the farm, load it with fifty tons of green beans or whatever, and twenty-four hours later you land right next door to the processing plant. It's a global conveyor belt. And water! With these vehicles, you could drop off a twenty-ton slab of water that is clean, drinkable, to an African village. It's astonishing what you can do that you just can’t do with anything else. Shit, you can do that with it? Wow, you can do that with it? Seriously fantastic!"
Dickinson said that he hoped to one day take the Airlander to the North Pole and the South Pole, with the entire journey being live-streamed via the Internet. "You just drop right down onto the ice cap," he said. "Or drop right down on the Atacama Desert, and you go up through the rain forest or whatever, just for shits and giggles. You know?"
Dickinson decided to put his cash into the project after meeting the "genius behind it," the late inventor Roger Munk. The singer told The Guardian: "I told my wife: 'I'm about to put £100k into a big bag of helium. It may go up in smoke.' She said: 'People have to dream, and unless you can dream something, it's never going to happen.'"
He added: "I'm not expecting to get my money back anytime soon, I just want to be part of it. Being a rock person, I could put it up my nose, or buy a million Rolls Royces and drive them into swimming pools, or I could do something useful. There are very few times in your life when you're going to be part of something big."
Unlike traditional airships, the Airlander has no internal structure but it becomes rigid through being filled with helium, at just above atmospheric pressure. The super-strong hull material has been specially designed for Hybrid Air Vehicles by Warwick Mills and assembled by ILC Dover, the company who make NASA spacesuits. Its innovative composition includes a woven fabric for strength on the inside, and a Tedlar layer for protection on the outside, sandwiching a mylar film to retain the helium.
For more information, visit www.hybridairvehicles.com.