Airlander 10: environmentally friendly airship aims to operate flights by 2025

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Short-haul and city air travel is set to benefit from an environmental alternative with a new hybrid airship being developed in the UK.

The Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) Airlander 10 is a 100-passenger airship that runs on helium and electricity and is capable of flying at speeds of up to 130 kilometers per hour and flying for five days consecutive.

On a mission to “rethink the skies,” the British company aims to launch the Airlander 10 hybrid-electric by 2025, and has published details of some of the possible routes the vehicle could serve.

These include downtown to downtown routes from Liverpool to Belfast, Seattle to Vancouver, Barcelona to Palma and Oslo to Stockholm.

An Airlander 10 flight from Liverpool city center to Belfast in Northern Ireland produces less CO2 than traditional planes and ferries. Courtesy of HAV

On short-haul flights, the Airlander 10 is able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 90% compared to regular aircraft. HAV says its airship’s CO2 footprint will be around 4.5 kilograms per passenger, compared to more than 50 kilograms per traveler on a regular aircraft.

This is possible because an Airlander aircraft uses lighter-than-air technology to burn less fuel in flight than conventional jets. The lift of the helium also compensates for the weight of the aircraft, requiring much less thrust to generate takeoff, which is typically one of the heaviest carbon flight sectors.

Floor-to-ceiling window view and seating in all hallways

The Airlander 10's spacious cabin means every passenger has access to the aisle and windows.  Courtesy hybrid air vehicles

The Airlander 10’s spacious cabin means every passenger has access to the aisle and windows. Courtesy hybrid air vehicles

The futuristic-style airship can comfortably accommodate up to 100 passengers and has a spacious cabin where everyone has direct access to the aisle. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide all passengers with incredible views while letting plenty of natural light into the vehicle.

For many decades, flying from A to B has meant sitting in a metal tube with tiny windows – a necessity, but not always a pleasure. On Airlander, the whole experience is pleasant, even pleasant.

George Land, hybrid aviation vehicles

Flying on the Airlander also offers a more relaxing trip than traditional flights. Slower speeds mean passengers have less noise in the cabin and reduce vehicle vibration.

With a maximum cruising height of 20,000 feet, the airship will typically fly at lower altitudes than a traditional aircraft, giving passengers a more interesting view of Earth from the air. Turbulence is also reduced due to the airship’s nearly 100 meter long hull.

And while the vehicle may look like it could fly out of its path as easily as a giant helium balloon, it was built to be able to land in winds of up to 30 knots and is capable to resist lightning and freezing conditions. It is also less affected by crosswinds than regular planes because it can turn into the wind and take off in any direction.

Asphalt, sand, grass or water tracks

The same goes for ease of landing. Airlander airships can fly point-to-point rather than relying on traditional infrastructure like airports and hangers. All that is needed is a flat open space of at least 600 meters in diameter, which can be on any surface such as grass, sand or water.

This allows Airlander 10 to be able to take travelers to some of the most remote corners of the world. HAV has already signed an agreement to deliver an airship to Swedish travel company OceanSky Cruises, which plans to use the vehicle to offer trips to the North Pole.

“For many decades, flying from A to B meant sitting in a metal tube with tiny windows – a necessity, but not always a pleasure. On Airlander, the whole experience is enjoyable, if not enjoyable, ”said George Land, Director of Business Development at HAV.

Before launching the Airlander 10 commercially, HAV is in talks with the airlines that will be the ones to operate the craft. With the approval of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) already acquired, Airlander will have a certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority before taking its flight with passengers on board.

Reduce emissions from short-haul flights

The carbon dioxide emissions on short-haul flights are the worst environmental culprits in the world of aviation.

Planes on roads of 700 km or less emit more carbon dioxide per person for every kilometer flown than long-haul flights, a recent report from Robeco, a sustainable investment specialist, said. This is because taking off and landing on any flight uses the most fuel, so the more time you spend in the air once you’re up, the better.

The Scottish airline LoganAir operates an inter-island flight between Westray and Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands.  It is the world's shortest scheduled passenger flight with a journey time of less than two minutes.  Courtesy of LoganAir / Twitter

The Scottish airline LoganAir operates an inter-island flight between Westray and Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands. It is the world’s shortest scheduled passenger flight with a journey time of less than two minutes. Courtesy of LoganAir / Twitter

The record for the shortest scheduled flight in the world is in Scotland. In the northern Orkney Islands, about 1,000 km from Iceland, Loganair operates a 2.7 km flight from Westray to Papa Westray.

In good weather, the journey takes less than two minutes, but the rough seas and the lack of causeways or tunnels make flying one of the only safe ways to connect these island communities.

Airlander could offer airlines like Loganair and others the option of continuing to provide short-haul travel to their customers, but on a more sustainable basis.

It also allows airlines to retain customers who hop between domestic points, before embarking on long-haul international flights, which are typically the most profitable routes.

For HAV, despite Airlander’s ability to reduce carbon emissions on short-haul flights, there is still work to be done. The Airlander 10 hybrid model runs on a mixture of electricity and helium, the latter of which is a non-renewable resource.

“According to the US Geological Survey, there are at least 50 years of known helium reserves based on current consumption. Six hundred Airlander planes would represent only 1 percent of annual helium consumption,” the website says. HAV.

The company is committed to being 100% carbon-free by 2030, when all four engines on Airlander boats will be fully electric.



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