Hybrid Airlander Moves Toward Production

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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.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. A “lower environmental impact” and interest by “clean technology companies?” And “unveiling” the Mark II Airlander is an “important milestone on our path to type certification.” What … will the FAA or CAA fall so in love with it upon first sight that they wave their magic certification twangers because they’re smitten by what they see? Who writes this stuff? The same PR outfit that’s hawking the 12 motor Hyundai / Uber UAM idea with a five minute recharge time? Well … at least the PAX will be able to bring their luggage.

    Why are they fooling around? Just call it climate saving and ‘green’ and get it over with. But hey … finally there’s a machine that’ll be able to carry all the necessary batteries to enable it to get out of its own way while carrying giant Sequoia trees whole out of the forest on only one quick recharge. Perhaps the whole top of it will be covered with PV cells and that’s why they’re calling it “hybrid?” I hope to see it at Airventure 2020 to figure out what that hind end view comment is all about while the “prospects” are jumping up and down during its unveiling in Boeing MCAS Square. When I was a kid growing up in Chicago near the Loop, I remember blimps with onboard advertising lighting. Maybe THAT is what they’re up to? With LED lights and computers, it’d be a high efficiency flying drive-in OLED theatre of mega proportions.

    The military project failed, the Mark II resurrection isn’t yet designed, built, tested or certified but already prospects are lining up. That rear view must be pretty awesome? I sure hope they aren’t planning on filling it with hydrogen?

    It’s getting mighty tough to be serious when I read stuff like this.

  2. A market for slow, turbulent, un-heated, un-air conditioned, unpressurized, low altitude commercial travel that won’t allow much luggage and only flies on good days? How does requiring vast amounts of non-renewable Helium make it environmentally friendly?

  3. More modern, politically correct, PR speak…”new lower drag shape”, “important milestone on our path to certification”, “lower environmental impact”, “responsible travel experiences” ETC. If they did succeed in getting a military contract, warfighter and stakeholder would be added to the current PC verbiage.

    However, I am perplexed how a dirigible can be so provocative being viewed from the rear to cause collective British snickers. Has Monte Python and Benny Hill been making new shows that I have been missing? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • I missed the comment that this updated design will provide “responsible” travel experiences, Jim; I was SO mesmerized by the thought of that magic new rear view. Sorry.

      Overnight, it “hit” me … now that the thing no longer uses petrol, carbon offsets could be sold during transoceanic travel and that’s why they’re using the word “responsible?” That guy with an “inconvenient truth” wouldn’t have to feel so guilty over using his Gulfstream to get to Davos by trading offsets. Well heeled tree huggers and Scandinavian sailboat driving Nobel peace prize winners could ply the oceans without an impact on the planet when they fly back home. Pretty cool. Best of all, out of work MCAS engineers — after the Boeing internal house cleaning occurs — could be hired to handle the other minutia of actual certification. There’d be no drop in the aviation employment stats. Sweet.

      • Now you went and did it, Rush … completely spoiled the anticipation …

        OMG … that thing looks like the southbound end of my northbound high school sweetheart as a senior citizen … complete with stretch marks !! 🙂

        If they bring thang that to Boing MCAS Square at Airventure … they better have a good supply of barf bags in the Boing kiosk.

        But hey … a lot of British cars look hideous, too …

    • “I am perplexed how a dirigible can be so provocative being viewed from the rear to cause collective British snickers.”

      Dammit Jim, I’m an engineer, not a nude sculptor (or even a sculptor of nudes). But a rear-facing ducted-fan engine is mounted on the longitudinal axis of two oblate gas-bags. Each engine has thrust-vectoring vanes that resemble … um, tassels?

  4. Lighten up, Francis.

    The “hybrid” designation refers to its aerodynamics, not its environmental impact. Unlike conventional blimps the gas-bag forms a lifting body. Part of its lift derives from the helium gas, the other part from its wing-like shape. It’s a hybrid of lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air technologies.

  5. Kate … we here are giving you the afternoon off from MCAS. How’s about getting the Avweb person(s) responsible for the two dogs munching on bones while watching TV drawing to do an artists conception of a full on “tushy” view of the HAV … those of us here just can’t wait six months to see it at Airventure. Besides, they might sell more of ’em if that sexy rear could be viewed closer.

    Thank you.