For many years, Bedford was home to RAF Cardington, an air force base with a long and varied history associated with airships and balloons.
It all began over 100 years ago when the Short Brothers used the site to build airships…
After that, RAF Cardington was used to build barrage balloons – special balloons that were used to defend skies against aircraft attack, as well as meteorological research balloons to help measure the weather.
Today, Cardington is home to a type of aircraft that you might not see that often in the skies… can you guess what sort?
It’s all thanks to an exciting technology and engineering powerhouse called Hybrid Air Vehicles.
Today’s airships use the latest materials technology – carbon composites for strength and to save weight, and Vectran to form the skin of the airship.
To help reduce weight, the airships have no internal structure to keep their shape. They maintain shape from the pressure of the gases used inside the airship. These gases are lighter than air which enables the airships to lift. Small engines are then used to control speed and direction.
They’re a lot less harmful to the environment and quieter too. If you live near an airport, that’s something you might like!
These airships – or hybrid aircraft as they’re sometimes called – are named Airlanders.
They can stay in the air for up to 5 days at a time, making them cheaper for long flights…
As well as carrying cargo, you might think they look like a fun way to go on holiday. Well, they certainly can carry passengers. In fact, 100 years ago airships were considered the height of luxury travel.
Maybe one day you’ll get the chance to travel in one!
You can watch the animated series of Amy’s Aviation on YouTube or download the audio series on your phone or tablet so you can listen whenever you like – at home or in the car!
Amy's Aviation: Kids Guide to Airplanes & Airports
The podcast that discovers how airplanes fly and what goes on behind-the-scenes at airports
Amy Aviation’s British Aeronautics, with support from the Royal Aeronautical Society!
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