Well, not THAT Led Zeppelin, of course — but the world’s newly unveiled longest aircraft certainly bears more than a passing resemblance to the hydrogen-filled airships of old, and counts Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson among its primary champions and private investors — as well as test pilot.
Dickinson, as is widely known thanks, in part, to 2009’s ‘Flight 666’ tour documentary, is a fully accredited commercial airline pilot. He’s also now one of the key supporters of the so-called Airlander, which, at 302 feet is 60 feet longer than a Boeing 747 and almost 30 feet longer than the world’s largest cargo-plane, the Antonov An-225.
What’s more, the Airlander’s vertical takeoff abilities and bulbous shape — alternately compared to two or three cigars sewn together, or an absolutely massive, erm, derierre — will allow it to haul as much as 50 tons of cargo, while addressing environmental concerns by operating 70% greener than a typical transport plane.
Dickinson told BBC News he expects the Airlander to be “a game changer, in terms of things we can have in the air and things we can do. The airship has always been with us [and] it’s just been waiting for the technology to catch up.”
Needless to say, all this gives new meaning to the Iron Maiden classic, ‘Aces High,’ as well as the prospect of “going down like a lead balloon” (or better yet, NOT!), as Who drummer Keith Moon famously predicted for Led Zeppelin upon their formation.
Current development plans have the Airlander embarking on its, ahem, Maiden voyage no later than year’s end, as likely as not with Mr. Dickinson at the wheel. Just don’t expect his remaining band members to join him for this tour.