In the fields adjacent to the U.K.'s Cardington Airfield, aviation enthusiasts lurked, cameras at the ready, while the test pilots and engineers readied the unusual craft for flight. At 08:12 a.m., the massive airship un-masted and, for 98 minutes, flew over Bedfordshire before approaching the mooring mast for landing. That's when things started heading south.
A diesel engine that powered the hydraulic pumps driving the winch conked out, delaying the landing and forcing the pilot to go airborne again. As the aircraft ascended, the mooring line was retracted through a panel in the cabin door but, as the aircraft rose, the mooring line fell out under its own weight, and dangled dangerously close to the ground.
That faulty winch would come back to haunt Chris Daniels, head of communications and partnerships at Hybrid Air Vehicles, who explained that its broken handle “prevented us from attaching the mooring line to the mooring mast.” Under pressure, human error became a factor. The aircraft nosed down steeply, began to descend, and struck the ground, causing damage to the cabin flight deck area.
That slow-motion crash pushed airships into the public consciousness for the first time in decades, and quickly became the biggest airship story of the year — one video of the incident has almost 10 million views.
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