Giant airship gets clearance for test flights

A giant rigid-frame balloon airship, dubbed Pathfinder-1 and reminiscent of the airships from the early 20th century, has gotten clearance to begin flight tests at Moffett Field in California.

At 407 ft (124 m) long and 66 ft (20 m) in diameter, it’s considerably longer than the “flying buttocks” of the Airlander 10, although less than half of its width. It might not qualify as the world’s largest aircraft, but it’s still absolutely enormous, approaching twice the length of an Airbus A380.

…Currently housed in a monstrous hangar in Mountain View, California, Pathfinder 1 has already flown indoors earlier this year. According to IEEE Spectrum, the company has now been awarded the special airworthiness certificate required to fly this beast outdoors – at less than 1,500 ft (460 m) of altitude, and within the boundaries of Moffett Field and the neighboring Palo Alto Airport’s airspace.

Because of the lightweight materials being used, Pathfinder-1 will use helium, not hydrogen, to lift it. The hope is that this airship can be used to transport cargo. The project is financed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.