b'AIRSHIPS OFFER INTRIGUING POTENTIAL FOR PROJECT FREIGHTThesedays,upwardsofadozenstartupsareattemptingtoto a base each day. This contrasts with Airlander, whose passen-develop airships in North America, Europe, and Asia. However, twoger-centric airship is being designed to travel up to 4,000 nautical are especially worth noting, not necessarily because of technologi- miles, but with limited cargo capabilities. cal acumen or design superiority, but because of finance. They areWe want to have big airships back in the skies for cargo, not Flying Whales and LTA Research & Exploration. passengers, said Schalck.Based in Suresnes, France, Flying Whales is being backed in partFlying Whales will produce a semi-rigid airship. The main frame by the French government, the Quebec government and is activelywill be composite. Inside the frame will be 14 gas cells holding courting an unnamed government in Asia-Pacific.helium. A textile envelope will surround the frame.To bring these airships back into our skies, we need to makeLTA Venturesure that we have the support of the state, said Roman Schalck, Flying Whales head of communication. This is a key for the suc- While Flying Whales envisions a public-private partnership, LTA cess of the project. Research is being bankrolled by one of the worlds richest individ-According to Schalck, the initial phase of Flying Whales produc- uals, Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google. Hes been mum about ing hybrid airships will cost around 500 million Euros, of whichthe effort, but according to a recent article in Bloomberg Business halfisexpectedtocomefrompublicfinancing.FlyingWeek, LTA (for lighter than air) insiders say Brin has sunk more Whales has already raised 162 million Euros from boththan $250 million in the effort through a family office.public and private investors, including theA prototype, the Pathfinder 1, is now being assembled in an old governments of France and Quebec. It isNASA hanger in Mountain View, CA, in the Silicon Valley. Last year, the very first time in 85 years any gov- LTA announced that it would move production to an even bigger ernment has put money into a civilianhanger in Akron, Ohio, where the almost century-old hanger once airship, Prentice pointed out. housed Goodyear Aircrafts production.The company anticipatesLTAs initial airship will have about 28 tons of lift, according to thefirsttestflightLTA CEO Alan Weston, interviewed in that May article and in an will take place inaccompanying video, which showed construction well under way. It is 122 meters long and can cruise at 60 knots for more than 2,000 nautical miles. Weston said the company wants to scale up to an airship that can carry more than 200 tons of cargo, with an emphasis on disaster relief. Thewholeprotractedsagatoproducemodern-dayairships smacks of arrested development. It may be difficult to picture now, but airship travel was fairly commonplace after World War I. In the 1920s and 1930s, transatlantic crossings took place regularly. Airships, not airplanes ruled the skies. That ended suddenly and tragically. In 1937, the Hindenburg zeppe-late 2025 or early 2026, with com- lin exploded in the skies over New Jersey, killing 37, with images mercial operations targeted to begin in 2027.of the deadly fireball searing public memory. FlyingWhaleswillhavetwofinalassemblyThe Hindenburg disaster spelt the fiery end to airship travel for lines, the first one in Bordeaux scheduled to open next year, thedecades,butnotnecessarilyitsdevelopment.DuringtheCold other in Quebec in 2026. A third is possible in Asia. War,forexample,theUSNavyusedhigh-altitudeballoonsfor Thecompanyplanstoproduce150airshipsduringthefirstsubmarine reconnaissance. After the September 11 attack, the US decade. Department of Defense bankrolled airship technology for surveil-Initially designed with remote logging in mind, the first gener- lance. And, of course, blimps continued to hover above sporting ation Flying Whales airship will have a 60-tons payload capacity.events.The 200-meters-long airship will also boast of a 96-meters long,As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down and threats of eight-meterswide,seven-meterstallcargobay,whichshouldterrorist attacks receded, US government money began to dry up accommodate extremely large project cargo as well as containersand thoughts of commercial ventures again began to bubble up. or general cargo. A sling will allow the carrying of oversized cargo,LTA should begin testing the Pathfinder 1 this year. Its ready to say, a tower, as well as being able to raise and lower payloads with- come out the door and fly anytime soon, said Prentice. When that out landing. It will hover, with water being used as ballast.happens, people will actually see that we can build big airships and The company envisions a range of 400 to 500 kms, returningthey can fly. Im hoping we get airship mania, he said.Back to Contents THE UNCONTAINED 9'