Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Airlander Crash Reinforces Stereotype of Unsuitability of Airships for Freight Carriage

However Lighter Than Air Craft Might Well Have a Place in the Future of Logistics
Shipping News Feature
UK – It gives little satisfaction when our cynicism over the future of airships is proved correct but the crash today when the £25 million project Airlander ran into a telegraph pole in not terribly bad conditions, perfectly illustrates the limitations of lighter than air vehicles as a future method for transporting freight (or indeed passengers). Developers Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) would argue that their craft has features of both aircraft and blimp, but it seems it may still suffer the vagaries of manoeuvrability which all balloon type craft are cursed with.

This is not to say there is no future for such craft, indeed, as we have pointed out many times these craft can literally be lifesavers in certain conditions where terrain is too hazardous for conventional vehicles. The truth is however that this will always be a limited market, and with several projects underway around the world, and with advancing technologies, the first to produce a safe, off the shelf, lighter than air carriage craft, will dominate the field, but only if it carries a reasonable price tag and has suitable back up in the form of continued maintenance.

Today’s accident happened on just the second test flight for Airlander as she returned to her Cardington, Bedford home base. At 92 metres overall the airship claims the title of longest airborne craft in the world and it is based on an original US military design which was scrapped for lack of funds. The accident today damaged the cockpit (and it didn’t do a lot for the telegraph pole) but no comment was available from the developers HAV at this stage.

Photo: The underslung cockpit of the Airlander before, and after, the crash.