A Spanish airline has bought 10 Airlander airships, which will be built in South Yorkshire
The hybrid aircraft, which generate lift from both aerodynamics and helium (and are also hybrid in other ways, namely diesel-electric), will be trialed on short domestic routes in Spain. While slower than jets, they produce 90% less emissions. Future versions of the Airlander will be electrically powered. The commercial version seats 100 people.
(The name appears to deliberately invoke the Islander and Trislander workhorse short haul aircraft).
On top of that, the Airlander does not need a runway. Because it is hybrid, it also doesn’t need airship infrastructure, namely a mooring mast. It can take off or land anywhere it can fit…including on water. The 10 craft are expected to enter service in 2026 and I’m tempted to plan a trip to Spain! Airlander also offers a boutique 10 seater version designed for use as a resort shuttle and for air cruises.
Are Airships Really Coming Back?
The answer may be yes, even as the Goodyear blimp vanishes (it’s been replaced by drones, which provide much more versatile aerial coverage of sporting events).
Here’s some evidence:
- The government of Quebec is offering 30 million Canadian to a French company with the delightful name of Flying Whales, which is designing airships that will carry 60 metric tons of cargo and serve remote areas…again, no runways. (However, Flying Whales has yet to build a single craft, and some people are skeptical).
- OceanSky cruises will take you to the North Pole by airship next year. Of course, it’s not cheap…a cabin for two costs $65,000. But new things are never cheap.
- LTA, founded by Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google) is working on a model that would use airships to deliver supplies for humanitarian missions. Another company, Buoyant Aircraft Systems International hopes to use airships to transport modular structures to areas with poor roads.