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Airships back in the news
Adrian Leopard 542

Airships back in the news

Just think – noiseless travel in comfort; the ability to stop where you want and perhaps just hover in the sky. The possibilities are huge

Back in January we reported on how airships might become a transport of the future after the disastrous Hindenburg incident 84 years ago.


One of the companies pioneering the airship idea, Hybrid Air Vehicles, has announced a list of routes which it hopes to serve from 2025. Their Airlander 10 ship carries 100 passengers in relative luxury but it is significantly slower than a jet aircraft. However it is intimated that by the time getting to and from the airport is taken into account, the overall time is going to be similar. That’s an interesting claim and only seeing this in practice will it become clear if it is true or not.


The idea is that the vessels, known an blimps, will take on short trips. Even so Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca is expected to take four and a half hours. But then, if you are not in a hurry, nothing to worry about and if it is a nice day, you could have stupendous views to look at.


The big win however is the carbon footprint which is minute compared with conventional flying and when these vessels come into commercial use it is anticipated that they will be even more economical because they will be fully electric. They can reach heights of 7000 feet and speeds of 50 knots.


Probably air traffic control protocols will require some amendment if the sky is going to be peppered with what people will perhaps see as large balloons.


One of the anticipated uses is with a Swedish company which intends to offer experiential travel over the North Pole with an Arctic explorer. Of course, one of the features of these vessels is that they can just “stop” if they want to, a bit like a helicopter, so observation from the air becomes a very different art. Imagine the applications in documentaries photographing wild animals from the air – completely unobtrusively and without noise or disturbance, and without the poor photographers freezing in the process.


The secret will be weather-proofing these vessels so if they end up in a storm they are not going to be torn to shreds, literally and making soft landings a possibility in the event of a “puncture”. In addition, of course they are completely susceptible to the wind so they would need to devise some way of combatting that.


One estimate of the value of the airship market is £50bn over the next 20 years. That’s quite a chunk of loot and will bring with it many jobs and great opportunities for people to travel. What is more is that these ships are going to be built in Britain. What’s not to like?


It’s all rather exciting, isn’t it?


Adrian Leopard 26th May 2021


Photo Georg Bommeli

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