Soon we will be able to travel in airships instead of planes

Aviation is by far the most polluting form of transport and more and more people are speaking out against it. While Airbus and many others are experimenting with ways to make planes greener, the UK’s Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) would rather bring airships back into the public consciousness – or at least something like them.

For years, the company has been developing the Arilander 10, which looks like a real airship, but the engineers have significantly improved on the original concept, borrowing some solutions from planes and helicopters. The biggest difference is that the HAV’s engine is not filled with flammable hydrogen, which caused the Hindenburg disaster, among other things, but instead its tank is filled with helium, which is much less accident-prone. Moreover, unlike previous airships, the Airlander is not lighter than air, so it can take to the skies thanks to the propulsion of its engines and its aerodynamic design.

HAV has previously carried out several successful and less successful test flights with the prototype aircraft, which is still equipped with conventional internal combustion engines. According to the manufacturer, their aircraft would still emit 75% less carbon dioxide than airplanes, but they will be able to reduce this even further with hybrid-electric and all-electric engines, which will allow the Airlander to transport people completely emission-free by 2030.

Although the information on the website suggests that the airship could cover up to 7,400 kilometres, HAV envisages that Airlander could replace shorter flights in particular: from Liverpool to Belfast would take 5 hours 20 minutes, just under an hour more than if the same distance were to be covered by plane, and the carbon emissions per passenger would be just 4.75 kilograms instead of 67.75 kilograms. Targeting short-haul flights could be a good business move for HAV, as France, for example, is about to ban domestic flights that can be replaced by a train journey of up to two and a half hours.

According to fresh visual plans for the interior of the airship released on Wednesday, the Airlander’s positive impact on the environment would not be its only benefit, as passengers would feel much more comfortable than on an airplane. The 72-passenger cabin would have floor-to-ceiling windows and separate, comfortable armchairs for passenger comfort, but even with a ninety-passenger layout, travelling in the Airlander would be like flying first class. Earlier plans also envisaged the airship having separate suites and a bar.

“For many decades, flying from A to B meant sitting in a metal tube with tiny windows, which was necessary but not always a pleasure. With the Airlander, however, the whole experience is pleasant, even enjoyable,” says George Land, the company’s director of commercial business development.

It is not yet known when the first scheduled Airlander flights will start, but HAV says that if they can find a way to build the airships economically, they will be able to produce up to 12 a year. And if they manage to obtain the necessary permits from the aviation authorities, we could see their airships back in Europe’s skies as early as 2024.

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