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Sat, Sep 02, 2023

Airlander Airship Secures Additional Funding

Air Nostrum Group Doubles Airlander Orders

Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) and Air Nostrum Group have agreed to double the number of Airlander-10 airship reservations to a total of twenty aircraft.

Under the initial agreement, announced in June 2022, Air Nostrum Group reserved ten Airlander-10 aircraft, with a one-hundred-passenger configuration. Under the new agreement, Air Nostrum Group has reserved a further ten Airlander aircraft for purpose of facilitating expansion of a planned airship network extending from Spain into the Mediterranean region, to include Malta.

With the first Airlander-10 services planned within five-years, additional potential route networks for Airlander aircraft were recently presented to Transport Malta by executives representing both Mel Air (part of the Air Nostrum Group) and Hybrid Air Vehicles. Discussions included the advantages of Airlander’s potential land and water-based operations for routes including Malta-Gozo, Malta-Sicily, and other key links with Italy, Tunisia, and Libya.

Additionally, Air Nostrum has joined the Airlander-50 Development Partner Program as the undertaking’s first commercial airline partner.

An evolution of the Airlander-10, the Airlander-50 is projected to accommodate a 50-ton payload and address the future of freight—moving cargo or people point-to-point with minimal infrastructure and a low environmental impact. The Airlander-50 Development Partner Program allows key partners and future Airlander-50 operators to inform the ongoing development of the Airlander-50 vehicle.

Mel Air chairman and Air Nostrum vice-president Miguel Ángel Falcón stated: “There are many factors that motivate us in flying Airlander, including a very low fuel consumption, bringing great ecological and economic benefits; the high operational versatility of being able to take-off and land on land and water; the family concept offering from ten to fifty tons of payload starting with one-hundred passengers on the Airlander-10, all in an environment of great passenger comfort. These are just some critical factors that make the Airlander an excellent aircraft for regional flights.”

Hybrid Air Vehicles CEO Tom Grundy added: “Our growing partnership with Air Nostrum Group continues to demonstrate leadership towards the future of flight and revolutionizing how we fly. Airlander is designed to deliver a better future for commercially-appealing and truly sustainable aviation services by enabling new transport services and better growth options for our customers. Airlander-10 will make this possible by 2027, and Airlander-50 will build on it. We’re so pleased to have doubled Air Nostrum’s reservation to twenty aircraft, and to have its backing for our journey and support for our Airlander-50 Development Program.”

Director General of Transport Malta CAD Captain Charles Pace set forth: “I welcome the innovative and pioneering approach of this project. This could be a very interesting opportunity for eco-friendly air services for regional routes based in Malta. The geography and distances are well suited to this innovative aircraft, and I look forward to seeing the project advance further and provide alternative green transport between the islands.”

Founded in 2007, Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited  (HAV) is a British designer and manufacturer of hybrid airships. Subject aircraft generate lift by both aerodynamic and Lighter-Than-Air (LTA) means.

Originally developed as the HAV-304 and built for the United States Army's Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) program, the airship known today as Airlander-10 made its 2012 maiden flight in Lakehurst, New Jersey—site of 1937’s Hindenburg disaster.

In 2013, following the U.S. Army’s cancellation of its LEMV project, HAV reacquired the HAV-304 prototype and returned such to England’s Cardington Airfield, where the immense airship was reassembled, modified for civilian use, and redesignated Airlander-10.

Hybrid Air Vehicles’ Airlander-10 is a helium airship comprising a triple-layer composite envelope internally divided by diaphragms into a total of six main helium compartments with additional sub-divisions. The aircraft is fitted with auxiliary wing and tail surfaces and powered by a quartet of 325-horsepower Thielert Centurion V-8 diesel engines driving sets of three-bladed ducted propellers. The engines are positioned in pairs, one set situated near the airship’s rear, and the other mounted on stub-wings protruding from the lateral aspects of the aircraft’s forward fuselage. Engine thrust is utilized to both lift and maneuver the airship.

Each of the Airlander-10’s four engines is mated to a 67-horsepower generator providing electrical power for the airship’s systems.

Initially designed to operate unmanned, the Airlander-10 was adapted for piloted flight in response to customer interest in such a capability. In-flight control of the airship is via a side-stick device slaved to the vessel’s aerodynamic control surfaces by a complex, fly-by-optics fiber-optic system which produces digital signals encoded into light-pulses by one of three Flight Control System Master Units (FCSMU). The light-pulses are subsequently transmitted to 11 FCS-Satellite(s) which, in turn, connect electrically to structures and systems such as flight-control surface actuators, engine controls, and secondary power distributors.

Outputs from the aforementioned satellite units return to the flight deck via the Flight Control System, thereby providing pilots feedback vis-à-vis engine conditions and flight-control surface positions.

According to HAV, the rigors of designing the airship’s flight control regime were eased by the vessel’s natural pendulum stability.

The Airlander-10’s exceptional lifting-capability, cargo-capacity, and endurance render it eminently well-suited to applications the likes of aerial transportation of passengers, cargo, or combinations thereof;  aerial surveillance; VHF communication relay; disaster relief operations; and any number of military/tactical missions.

On 18 November 2017, following completion of its design certification testing, the original Airlander-10 was destroyed and subsequently written off after coming loose from its moorings in high winds. Production of a new, presumably identical airship is currently planned for 2025, with customer deliveries to commence in 2026.

FMI: www.hybridairvehicles.com

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