Ruther­glen man to pi­lot world’s largest air­craft

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Mur­ray Spooner

A Ruther­glen man this week de­scribed what it is like to be chief test pi­lot of the world’s largest air­craft.

David Burns, 61, is part of a team in Eng­land who are work­ing on try­ing to get the Air­lan­der 10, a 302ft-long plane, up into the sky once again.

The giant air­craft is about 50ft longer than the big­gest pas­sen­ger jets and is 143ft wide and 85ft high.

The fin­ished model was un­veiled last week, Mon­day, in a World War One hanger in Bed­ford­shire and was orig­i­nally de­vel­oped for the US gov­ern­ment as a long en­durance sur­veil­lance air­craft be­fore 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.

David, who grew up in Spit­tal and flew Air­lan­der 10 in 2012, said: “It’s quite a spe­cial feel­ing.

“I flew it once and from the flight deck you have an ex­cel­lent view.

“It’s also quiet up there be­cause the en­gines are about 120ft be­hind you.

“It is a mix of air­craft and air­ship and it could be ready to fly soon but a lot of tests have to be car­ried out on it.

“For the peo­ple on board and the peo­ple down be­low it’s go­ing to look quite a sight.”

It will now un­der go ground test­ing be­fore 200 hours of test flights be­gin later this year.

The huge air­craft will be able to stay air­borne for about five days dur­ing manned flights.

David, a for­mer Spit­tal Pri­mary and Ruther­glen Academy pupil, went to study air en­gi­neer­ing at Glas­gow Univer­sity and Southamp­ton Col­lege to take part in flight train­ing.

He has been based in Eng­land for 33 years but still has fam­ily in Ruther­glen.

The pi­lot is part of a team of Scots in­clud­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Stephen McGlen­nan, from Stepps in North La­nark­shire and chair­man Philip Gwyn, grand­son of Hugh McMil­lan, the founder of Blythswood Ship­yard in Scot­stoun.

HAV, who de­signed and man­u­fac­tured the air­craft, claims it could be used for a va­ri­ety of func­tions such as sur­veil­lance, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, de­liv­er­ing aid and even pas­sen­ger travel.

The Air­lan­der 10 uses he­lium to be­come air­borne and can travel at 92mph.

It is hoped that the Air­lan­der 50 will even­tu­ally be de­vel­oped, which would be able to trans­port 50 tonnes of freight.

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