Bedford firm Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) signed an aircraft reservation agreement with Spanish airline Air Nostrum Group, which aims to transport up to 100 passengers in each of the helium-filled Airlander 10 vehicles.
Originally designed for military intelligence and surveillance, the craft is now aimed at low-emission passenger aviation. With a maximum payload of 10 tonnes and a range of over 7,000km, HAV claims it will produce only about 10% of the per-passenger emissions of conventional airliners. The long-term aim is for all four of the aircraft’s engines to be electric, meaning it could operate with zero emissions.
The low-speed aircraft gets its lift from a combination of buoyancy, aerodynamics and vectored thrust, maximising efficiency. HAV, which has been developing next-generation airships for 15 years, said the aircraft could also one day carry future battery or solar cell technology to achieve zero-carbon emissions.
Carlos Bertomeu, president of Air Nostrum, said: “We are exploring each and every possible way to reduce our carbon footprint. This is something that we have been doing for many years. The Airlander 10 will drastically reduce emissions, and for that reason we have made this agreement with HAV.”
The agreement follows six months of studies and modelling carried out by Air Nostrum Group and HAV into the operation of Airlander 10 on Spanish domestic aviation routes. The companies did not announce which routes the airship would fly on, but The Guardian highlighted a previous HAV prediction of four-and-a-half hour flights between Barcelona and Palma in Mallorca. The equivalent journey in a conventional jet airliner takes about 50 minutes.
The company will produce the fleet in South Yorkshire, creating an estimated 1,800 jobs. Delivery is planned from 2026 onwards.
Tom Grundy, CEO of HAV, said: “Airlander is designed to deliver a better future for sustainable aviation services, enable new transport networks and provide rapid growth options for our customers. Our partnership with Air Nostrum Group, as the launch airline for Airlander 10, leads the way towards that future.
“As countries like France, Denmark, Norway, Spain and the UK begin to put in place ambitious mandates for the decarbonisation of domestic and short haul flight, Hybrid Air Vehicles and Air Nostrum Group are demonstrating how we can get there – and get there soon.”
HAV faced several incidents during earlier testing of the Airlander 10 prototype, including a 2016 crash that caused damage to the cockpit.
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