Skykitten and Skycat.  


In April 2001 with my wife Pat, I re-visited Cardington to see the work of Advanced Technologies Group.

From the air, the airship hangars dominate the landscape near the little village of Cardington.

To the right is a circular mooring area and below that a shallow rectangular pool for trial water landings and takeoffs. I noted that the remains of the old wooden mooring mast where the R.100 and R.101 used to be moored had been removed.


We entered the enormous airship hanger two, (foreground above) In 1968 some scenes for 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' were filmed at the airship sheds. Also during the 1960s, much of the film 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines' was shot in the vicinity of the village.

At the time of our visit, the sheds was used by the Building Research Establishment as a building testing facility. Multi- storey steel, concrete and wooden buildings were constructed and then destructively tested. Leaving that hangar we braved the cold wind and entered hangar one. At one end was a lonely barrage balloon tethered to a truck. My wife Pat and I were issued with hard hats as loose bolts, encouraged by rust and nesting birds sometimes plummet to the floor at great speed.




There were several projects underway here. ATG were working on three main lighter than air projects.

The A-10 an airship of conventional configuration.
The "Skycat"an airship with a wide body using aerodynamic lift.
The "Stratsat", a high altitude unmanned hovering airship housing communication antennas

Looking through a mock up of a SkyCat's cockpit, we can see the barrage balloon and a tent which housed the small SkyKitten prototype.


The Skycat prototype, known as Skykitten in it's tent inside Hangar 1.




The two rear engines are "Glow engines" (mini-diesel) the side engines are electric, running off a battery.


SkyKitten is 40ft long, is remotely controlled and has successfully completed 6 months of trials. Although filled with helium it is slightly heavier than air, and relies on aerodynamic lift to get airborne.





Skykitten flying; It has no wheels, simply a type of inflated hover cushion, allowing landings on land or water. This can be seen here somewhat distorted by the airflow.
It first flew in June 2000.


The unconventional design does seem to have many advantages, particularly in landing, take off and ground handling.

ATG claim that Skycat "is set to change transportation forever. It can take off from land, water, swamp or snow, and requires no landing infrastructure" (ie. mooring masts, hangars etc.)

Using plastic sheeting, ATG had built a large shallow "lake" outside the hangars where these landing tests took place.



A second prototype "Skykitten II" has now been built to demonstrate further flying qualities. The company has become Hybrid Air Vehicles.

Unlike the first prototype, shown above, it has a retractable skirt to reduce drag during flight.


When these machines are on the ground, the inflatable skirt can reverse and "suck down'" to act as a mooring.



(Left) A fiberglass part of a propeller duct for the Skycat 20. It's ready for baking in a large oven.



Another moulded part, a tail cone for the Skycat 20.



Pat and I with a test rig for one of the Skycat engines. For simplicity, they do not swivel for upward thrust, rear engine ailerons are used instead.


A closer view of the air cooled diesel engine with Joanna Amis the PR lady, our very helpful guide.

Diesel is the preferred fuel, as the fire hazard is lower than with gasoline.



Part of Advanced Technologies Group's factory tucked away on one side of Hanger 2.

Hangar 1 had many gaping holes, and high above the central interior hung a huge fabric sheet, not just to deflect falling objects but to avoid airships and workers being drenched with rain.

Besides SkyCat, ATG were working on the A-10. an airship of conventional configuration. It is visible at the rear.
The AT-10 is a 4/5-seat commercial airship providing an ideal platform for advertising and filming.

The body of "Stratsat", a high altitude unmanned hovering airship is on the right. It will house an array of communication antennae.


  The massive doors have been opened and the A-10 emerges.
The interior ballonet is visible here through the translucent fabric.
It has a bicycle undercarriage for improved stability during take-off and landing.

Powered by:-
2 x 100 bhp (80 bhp Max. cont.), horizontally opposed, two-stroke, direct injection, diesel engines,supercharged.


The two engines are mounted beside the payload module and can be rotated for enhanced take-off and hover capability.
Volume 2,500 cu.m (88,287 cu ft)
Length 41.4 m (135.8 ft) Height 13.6 m (44.6 ft) Width 10.7 m (35.1 ft)

Flight Controls.- Split channel, optically signalled, flight control system with provision for an autopilot facility.
Low pressure pneumatic system for powering of flight control actuators, providing very low susceptibility to lightning strike and Electro Magnetic Induction.

Payload Pilot and four passengers. 740 kgs / 1,631 lbs
Cabin Module Length 4.4 m (14.4 ft)


Lockeed Martin, the giant American Aerospace company were developing the P-791 Hybrid Airship, however the project has apparently stalled.

It can be seen here in flight.


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Northrop Grumman was developing what was thought to be successor to the Skycat.The huge airship can be seen above.

It was to become a long-endurance multi- intelligence vehicle (LEMV) for the U.S. Army. The LEMV flew in August 2012 at Lakehurst, New Jersey, ten months later than promised and seven months after it was supposed to be deployed in Afghanistan for an operational trial. These delays, and U.S. defense budget cuts, led to cancellation of the LEMV in February 2013. The Army had spent $297 million on the project.

It only had one flight.

The company who developed the Skycat, Hybrid Aerial Vehicles, was able to purchase the deflated American Airship at scrap price, $301,000, gain an export license and ship it to the UK. Early this year, the company re-inflated the 300-foot long, 80-foot-high envelope with pressurized air. The intriguing details can be seen below.