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Construction complete on behemoth airship; first flight planned

The 36,000-pound and 230-foot-long Aeroscraft prototype, Pelican, is displayed after a recent demonstration in this image, published Jan. 4, 2013.

LOS ANGELES — A massive cargo-carrying airship has taken shape inside one of the 17-story wooden blimp hangars at the former military base in Tustin, Calif.

According to aircraft maker Worldwide Aeros Corp., construction is complete on a 36,000-pound blimp-like aircraft designed for the military to carry tons of cargo to remote areas around the world.

The Montebello company hopes to have a first flight in the coming months and to demonstrate cargo-carrying capability soon thereafter.

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“This is truly the beginning of a vertical global transportation solution for perhaps the next 100 years,” Chief Executive Igor Pasternak said in a statement.

Worldwide Aeros, a company of about 100 employees, built the prototype under a contract of about $35 million from the Pentagon and NASA.

The Aeroscraft is a zeppelin with a 230-foot rigid skeleton made of aluminum and carbon fiber. It’s a new type of hybrid aircraft that combines airplane and airship technologies and doesn’t need a long runway to take off or land because it has piston engines that allow it to move vertically and a new high-tech buoyancy control system.

Ultimately, the company wants to be able to carry up to 66 tons.

“This will land in Africa, Afghanistan,” Pasternak told the Los Angeles Times in September, “a Wal-Mart parking lot — wherever.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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