After a challenging prototyping period, Hybrid Air Vehicles says it’s redesigned its inflatable airfoil called the Airlander 1 and has 10 prospective buyers as it moves toward certification and production. The prototype, a resurrection of a canceled U.S. military project, crashed on one of its early test flights and was the butt of jokes in the U.K., where it’s being developed, for its rather provocative appearance from the rear. All that’s behind HAV, says its CEO Tom Grundy. “Unveiling the aircraft that our first commercial customers will receive is an exciting moment and an important milestone on our path to type certification,” he said in a news release.
The new “lower drag shape” should take care of the snickering but the company says it’s also added a bigger cabin and better landing gear for a more efficient aircraft, which lists a lower environmental impact and low operating costs among its benefits. The first one was gasoline powered but production models will likely have electric motors and there are 10 letters of intent from tourism and clean technology companies, they say. “Our current negotiations are the result of the strong interest in providing unique, responsible travel experiences that we’ve been seeing in the commercial sector,” Grundy said.