Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lockheed Martin Signs Deal for Freight Airship with French Operator

Balloon Refuses to Burst
Shipping News Feature
FRANCE – US – The Handy Shipping Guide has covered many times in the past the development of air ships designed to carry and deliver heavy loads to remote places, and quite often some of the unfortunate issues that lighter-than-air delivery systems have experienced. Now a real aerospace giant is looking like well and truly entering the arena.

Paris-based Hybrid Air Freighters (HAF) has signed a Letter of Intent to purchase up to 12 Lockheed Martin LMH-1 Hybrid Airships, at a total value of approximately $500 million. HAF is working with Hybrid Enterprises, the exclusive reseller of Lockheed Martin's Hybrid Airships, to finalise the purchase agreement. Hubert de Contenson, chief executive officer of HAF, said:

"We are keen to implement such an impressive innovation in the logistics market. The LMH-1 will open a new era for remote cargo delivery that is free from costly ground infrastructure and will provide a sustainable and affordable solution to remote cargo operations around the globe."

Because of their shape and air cushion landing system, Hybrid Airships are intended to affordably transport heavy cargo and/or passengers to and from the most remote locations. They require little or no fixed ground infrastructure and burn significantly less fuel compared to conventional aircraft making them, according to the advocates, an environmentally friendly solution to remote cargo delivery in which time constraints are frequently less important than in passenger operations.

As well as having the backing of the US aerospace giant, Hybrid Air Freighters has a team of highly experienced logistics and aviation executives at the helm. Chief executive officer of HAF, Hubert de Contenson served as deputy CEO of the CAT Groupe and worked for SDV, now Bollore Logistics, before that.

Meanwhile Jean-Paul Troadec, head of aviation and flight operations, has vast experience in the domains of aircraft operations, air traffic control, safety regulations and relations with the international aviation authorities. His experience includes managing director of the French air navigation service provider, managing director of a major airline pilot training company, and chairman of the French aviation accident investigation bureau (BEA).

The flexibility of the freight airship concept means that despite the issues that many previous attempts have had, it looks increasingly likely that soon they will play a bigger part in specialist logistics. How successful they will be still remains to be seen but, if used in the correct geographical locations which boast stable and suitable weather conditions, they can prove a useful replacement for trucks in those hard to reach areas.

The market for the giant dirigibles however is unlikely to prove particularly large and therefore, with numerous companies around the globe, from China’s Golden Eagle to France’s Flying Whales and a host of others, seeking to produce their own designs of airship, competition will doubtless be fierce giving a certain advantage to the larger manufacturers.