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Giant helium-filled airship Airlander takes off for 1st time

LONDON – A blimp-shaped airship billed as the world’s largest aircraft has taken off for the first time, days after an earlier attempt was scuttled by a last-minute technical hitch.

The 302-foot (92-meter) Airlander 10 — nicknamed the “flying bum” because of its bulbous front end — rose slowly into the air Wednesday from an airfield 45 miles (73 kilometres) north of London.

A test flight planned for Sunday was scrapped because of an unspecified technical issue.

The Airlander is a hybrid air vehicle — part lighter-than-air blimp, part plane. It’s designed to use less fuel than a plane, but carry heavier loads than conventional airships.

Its developer, Hybrid Air Vehicles, says it can travel at up to 90 mph (148 kph) and stay aloft for up to two weeks.