A lot has been written over the past couple of years about the possible revival of an Airship Freighter. There were plans almost two decades ago in Germany to build a long-distance heavyweight airship capable of carrying large loads at a cost much lower than normal air freight. Those plans went out the window, but now maybe the airship freighter may well come into operation.
UK’s Hybrid Air Vehicles tries again
The Airliner 10 has been plagued with mishaps with its prototype which first took to the air in August 2016. Originally the craft was developed back in 2012 for the United States Army as a so-called Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). It made its first military test flight in New Jersey in 2012, but in 2013 the U.S. army suddenly cancelled the project. The craft was then deflated and bought by UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) company which then started to prepare it for commercial operations testing.
The first thirty-minute prototype flight was carried out on August 17. 2016 at HAV’s facility in Cardington, UK. A week later on the second flight the nose hit the ground on landing and was severely damaged. Another mishap occurred in November 2017 when the craft’s moorings broke away and the airship suffered quite some damage due to ripped panels.
Since then however, test flights have been going according to plan and Airlander 10 is ready for action. An air cargo version is a possibility in the coming years, but the company is so far striving to sell it as a surveillance and search and rescue vehicle as well as developing it for expeditionary tourism flights.
Production Organisation Approval now on hand
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has at the end of 2018 awarded HAV their Production Organisation Approval. This follows on the heels of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) having given HVA their Design Organisation Approval in October 2018.
The above awards now allow HAV to start production of the Airlander 10 and sell it for commercial passenger or maybe later for cargo operations. The prototype having served its purpose will now be retired.
HAV is aiming for the Airliner 10 to be in service by the early 2020s. It will have to undergo design modifications if it is to be viable as a heavy lift cargo airship. It can operate at 20,000 feet and is said to have a range of 3,000 kilometers. It can start or land from basically anywhere and it will be interesting to see whether it will actually have a future as an air cargo airship.
John Mc Donagh