A UK company is reaching back to the era of lighter-than-air travel, but they say their airships are cutting edge and offer a viable city-to-city travel option. Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) of Bedford UK. North of London are testing out the Airlander 10—an airship That uses non-flammable helium along with what they call vectored thrust, from four engines that can be pivoted to provide forward, upward or downward thrust.
In addition to the technological advances, the big difference with the Airlander is the luxury cabin which can seat up to 100, in swivel chairs and afford passengers spectacular views from floor-to-ceiling windows.
Safety of Helium
Inside the hull, the aircraft has multiple ballonets. These compartments, filled with air, help to maintain the internal pressure of the hull as the helium expands and contracts (with temperature and altitude changes, for example). They also offer additional control of the aircraft for the pilots, who can adjust the ballonets.
In the event of damage to the hull, on-board automatic pressure management systems compensate for a helium leak with managed degradation, allowing the aircraft to fly to a base for repair and helium replenishment. Thanks to the low-pressure differential, helium leaks very slowly, even from multiple holes in the fabric.
Airlander journeys won’t compete with long-haul flights or routes already well-served by high-speed rail connections, said HAV CEO Tom Grundy, but will instead focus on pairing up cities a few hundred miles apart.
Examples include Liverpool to Belfast, Seattle to Vancouver and Stockholm to Oslo, and Grundy also pointed out that the airship would be particularly useful in island nations such as Indonesia, or in remote areas of northern Canada.
The airship has a top speed of 130 kilometers per hour (about 81 miles an hour), and a trip from Liverpool to Belfast — 271 kilometers (168 miles) — would take five hours 20 minutes, according to HAV. The big difference will be in Greenhouse Gas savings. In terms of emissions, HAV used UK government figures to calculate that, for the Liverpool to Belfast journey, an Airlander would produce 4.75 kilograms of carbon dioxide, compared to 4.98 kilograms on the ferry and 67.75 kilograms on an airplane.
The Airlander 10 has flown several test flights and expects to obtain certification in the next two years.