A Spanish airline announced last month that it has become the first to order ten new hybrid airships which it hopes to be in service on short-haul routes by 2026. Iberia’s regional carrier Air Nostrum has confirmed the deal with UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles which claim the craft could reduce emissions by 90 per cent.
The Airlander 10 airship seats 100 passengers and has a range of about 400 kilometres (250 miles), although its maximum speed is a stately 130 kph (80 mph). The passenger seats are in a 1-2-1 arrangement with some facing one another, and transparent walls giving views from up to 20,000 feet. Importantly, the airship does not require a conventional airstrip to operate, but, like a helicopter, can land almost anywhere but with a much heavier payload.
The Airlander 10 was originally designed for aerial surveillance by the US Army, and its creators say the current version uses 20 per cent of the fuel burn of existing aircraft, can be fitted with solar panels, uses almost-silent 325 hp V8 engines and can stay airborne for five days while carrying its maximum payload of ten tons. When construction begins this year, the order will create 1,800 jobs in Yorkshire.
Air Nostrum’s President Carlos Bertomeu said the airships will help beat the European targets of cutting emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030.
“Sustainability,” he added, “is already a non-negotiable fact in the daily operations of commercial aviation.”