The boast ‘Anything, Anytime, Anywhere’ has been around for a while with plenty of agencies using it, together those words make a phenomenal claim but we might just have a vehicle that gets as close as anyone could - Airlander.
Similarly the idea of a STOL transport capable of long duration, long range ops that can deliver 50, even 200 tonnes of payload to any reasonably flat unprepared strip is pretty mind-blowing. This disruptive technology opens up the inaccessible, generates new markets within and without aviation and might turn remote, marginal prospects of many kinds into profitable, routine operations. Humanitarian rescue/aid, exploration, mining, drilling and leisure to name just a few that don’t involve fighting. Incredibly, reduce Airlander 50’s payload by 60% from maximum and she will haul 20 tonnes off the ground vertically. This provides super flexibility for shifting big weights close into an area of operations, the helicopter that can do this has yet to be built. Other heavy-lift transports simply cannot lift loads even close to these figures and their technical requirements would move them back down the supply line, these mighty machines have their place but the ‘lift’ the ’AAA crown? Not while Airlander is around.
Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd: AIRLANDER can transport people, cargo or a combination of the two. The vehicle offers a large internal space in its payload module – the AIRLANDER 50 has 270% more space than a C–130 and a larger payload than a C–17. Experience shows that operators tend to run out of volume before they reach their payload capacity for weight. Hybrid Air Vehicles is also considering a modular approach to the payload module. This may include options such as under-slung loads. The AIRLANDER 50 can accommodate six 20-foot containers in its payload module, subject to a maximum weight of 50 tonnes. A built in crane with a 20-tonne capacity is included as part of the basic specification.
To be able to do this using an aircraft that does this using a relatively inexpensive aircraft using diesel engines that (quietly) burn a fraction of the fuel an equivalent kerosene-fuelled airlift would consume and you get logistics people really excited. I can only imagine what the US Army ‘movers’ thought when Congress, desperate to reduce their expenditure slashed the British originated project and allowed the technology to return to its UK (IP intact) home with Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. A look at the US Army website doesn’t find much mention of the cancellation during early February 2013. The event was not lost to government watchers who provide a clue: it’s likely that the Army was less than delighted with the decision.
Inside Defence.com Maj. Gen. Robert “Bo” Dyess, force development director in the G–8 directorate, told ITA in an interview last October. “The way I see it is we need to keep some investment in LEMV to protect … perhaps have it as a capability which we look at in the future given whichever situation we are in.” He added the service planned to put most of its investment in the existing fleet. – Jen Judson
Thank goodness we have people with vision, passion and faith to bring the project towards fruition. I’m surprised that The Telegraph would dwell on the tragedy surrounding the explosive hydrogen generation airships, they belong to another era. I guess the spectacular makes for sensational reading. Helium doesn’t explode of course, nor does an airframe of this design lend itself to structural failure as the early ‘Behemoth’s’ did. ’Nice piece though Neil!
During the early 80s I had a ride out of Cardington in an Airship Industries Skyship 500, it was a fascinating experience. If we are to see hybrid airships working in a 1000 hull fleet (world-wide) as envisaged by Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd, flying them would be an exciting prospect. The passenger flying boat era produced a style of travel that emulated the great airship’s opulence and grace, but could never really match due space restraints.
If the current cruise ship industry is anything to go by, the market for leisurely travel at 80 knots across oceans and continents taking days rather than hours or weeks must be worth investigating. The traveller’s investment is testimony to the belief that often it’s the journey matters most, not the arrival. And what a journey that could be given the wonders on show beneath as you cross continents. Imagine seeing the Great African Rift Valley beneath as sunset approaches from 1500 feet whilst sipping a tipple of your choice. Waking up to a dawn where Wildebeest at the waterhole are startled by the this huge craft slipping almost silently by. If this stirs your imagination then a new paradigm in air travel has a future, perhaps even beyond that of today’s paraffin swilling jets cruising at .84Mach.
Whilst some contemporary airline pilots might cast a wry smile at the idea, I believe there may be many who would love to face the varied and exciting challenges that flying this unique vehicle would bring. The claim that Airlander could change the world is highly credible. How could you tire of a job like that, particularly when you have a little time off in the cruise soaking in the ambience at the captains table with your passengers? Wonderful!