Spanish Airline Group Reserves Orders for 10 Massive Airships

European regional airline Air Nostrum Group has reserved 10 massive hybrid airships, currently under development by U.K.-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV).

Artist Rendering of Airlander 10 in flight

The airship’s airliner variant is designed for a range of more than 750 km (405 nm), with a maximum altitude of FL200 (20,000 feet). [Courtesy: Hybrid Air Vehicles]

European regional airline Air Nostrum Group recently placed 10 preliminary orders for a massive hybrid airship called Airlander 10, currently under development by U.K.-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV). 

As governments across Europe increasingly commit themselves to net-zero carbon emission goals, HAV’s low-emission airship is designed to seat 100 passengers on short-haul journeys while cutting emissions by 90 percent. The aircraft—which will measure more than 300 feet long—is expected to enter its production phase later this year in South Yorkshire, England. 

“With further developments in electric propulsion underway, HAV expects that Airlander 10 will be the world’s first large-scale aircraft to achieve zero-emissions flight,” HAV said in a statement. 

Air Nostrum, a Spain-based airline group, currently operates more than 70,000 flights a year. The company’s airlines include Iberia Regional, which operates a fleet of Bombardier CRJ-1000s, CRJ-900s, and CRJ-200 regional jets, as well as ATR 72 turboprops. 

“This agreement enhances the possibility of the revolutionary, British-made and designed, Airlander 10 aircraft flying across Spanish skies,” said Air Nostrum business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

About the Aircraft

In recent years, HAV has flight tested a prototype airship near its facility in Bedfordshire, England. In 2017, the company made headlines when a prototype went down during a test flight at Cardington Airfield. 

HAV offered these comparative stats from an imagined route between Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia. [Courtesy: Hybrid Air Vehicles]

A hybrid electric powered propulsion system gives the airship a range of more than 750 km (405 nm) when used for mobility applications, with a maximum altitude of FL200 (20,000 feet msl). 

The company says Airlander 10 has a maximum speed of 130 km/h (70 knots) and is designed to remain aloft for as long as five days. HAV plans to manufacture variants for long-range logistics as well as communications and surveillance with an expected range of up to 4,000 nm (7,400 km).

For regional travel, HAV says Airlander can fly point to point without reliance on airports or other traditional transport infrastructure. “This makes total journey time for shorter, regional-type routes competitive against both air and surface options,” according to HAV. 

HAV says its airship derives 40 percent of its lift from Airlander’s aerodynamic design, as airflow passes over the hull. The remaining lift is generated similar to traditional airships, from lighter than air gases—in this case helium— inside the aircraft. 

The Airlander 10 airship will seat 100 passengers while cutting emissions by 90 percent, compared to traditional aircraft. [Courtesy: Hybrid Air Vehicles]

At lower speeds and lower altitudes, “vectoring engine power provides additional lift and maneuverability for takeoff, landing, and ground handling,” according to HAV.

Surging Airship Activity

The aviation industry’s interest in developing airships appears to be rising. 

LTA Research, a U.S. startup owned by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, is developing an all-electric airship with an expected length of 600 feet, dubbed Pathfinder 3

A smaller, 400-foot version of that aircraft could fly as soon as 2023, according to news reports.

Thom is a former senior editor for FLYING. Previously, his freelance reporting appeared in aviation industry magazines. Thom also spent three decades as a TV and digital journalist at CNN’s bureaus in Washington and Atlanta, eventually specializing in aviation. He has reported from air shows in Oshkosh, Farnborough and Paris. Follow Thom on Twitter @thompatterson.

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