The Blimp 2.0 is a self-driving, hydrogen-powered airship that can take you from San Francisco to Los Angeles in just 3 hours and 40 minutes.
The blimp has returned—or will return if its supporters can sell their new image of slow but smooth, roomy, and safe rides.
In recent decades, blimps have been most noticeable as floating billboards. However, a few firms, like Worldwide Aeros Corp. and Sergey Brin’s Lighter Than Air Research and Exploration LLC, are working on expanding the usage of airships. The vehicles’ capacity to fly for days without refueling and dock without a runway, according to some, makes them an underutilized logistical asset for humanitarian disaster relief and military missions like surveillance and reconnaissance.
Others are reconsidering the airship as a mode of transportation in and of itself.
Between 2024 and 2025, OceanSky Cruises AB, a Swedish aviation firm, intends to transport 16 passengers and seven crew members from Norway to the Arctic and back in a luxury aircraft supported by helium. It aims to do so by resurrecting a form of passenger transportation that many thought had gone out when the Hindenburg airship blew up in flames on its approach to a naval air station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937, killing 36 people.
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Today’s airships, according to OceanSky Cruises, are a sustainable mode of transportation, releasing much less carbon per passenger than aircraft and being less crowded, loud, and stressful than flying.
“We can provide guests with a pleasant environment, similar to that of an ocean liner, but four times faster,” said OceanSky Cruises CEO and founder Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck.
However, convincing people that an airship is safe to embark may be difficult.
According to Gonzalo Gimeno, a marketing consultant for OceanSky Cruises, footage of the Hindenburg disaster—one of the first disasters captured on film—remains in the public consciousness.
The fact that a prototype test flight of the Airlander 10, which OceanSky Cruises intends to fly to the North Pole, resulted in a low-impact accident in 2016 didn’t help matters. Hybrid Air Vehicles, headquartered in the United Kingdom, claimed it conducted four further test flights without issue after rebuilding the Airlander, which it refers to as a hybrid air vehicle rather than an airship or blimp since it is not lighter than air.
Mr. Gimeno said OceanSky Cruises is working on a website to explain why the Airlander utilizes helium instead of the hydrogen and diesel that caught fire on the Hindenburg and why the outer skin is constructed of flameproof fabric.
Mr. Gimeno said, “There is a lot of education that has to be done in terms of airships by us.”
Between 2024 and 2025, OceanSky Cruises intends to transport 16 passengers and seven staff members to the Arctic and back aboard an Airlander, as shown in this image.
MBVision/Tom Hegen/Kirt x Thomsen/Kirt x Thomsen/Kirt x Thomsen/Kirt x Tho
Onboard interior design, according to executives, may also assist calm anxious travelers. Because of the smoothness with which the Airlander travels and the relatively low speed with which it takes off and lands, features like handrails and seat belts have been included, in part to enhance passengers’ feeling of familiarity and safety, according to Max Pinucci, OceanSky Cruises’ director of design.
Guest rooms, a restaurant, and a bar are among the other facilities planned for OceanSky Cruises’ 320-foot-long airship, which is presently envisioned as a luxury flying experience.
HAV announced a series of transit routes in May that it claimed could be serviced on a more timetabled and economical basis, including a four-hour trip from Seattle to Vancouver. Even these trips, according to Tom Grundy, the company’s CEO, would provide considerably more room for each passenger than an aircraft.
Mr. Grundy said, “Every seat has direct access to the aisle, and the aisles are open to everyone, so we can do away of things like asking someone to move if you need to use the restroom during the flight.”
Operating at altitudes of approximately 10,000 feet eliminates the need for pressurized cabins, allowing for floor-to-ceiling panoramas instead of the small, reinforced windows seen on aircraft flying over 30,000 feet, according to Mr. Grundy.
However, flying low may cause issues on the ground, according to Dale Richards, a senior professor in human factors engineering at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom.
“Imagine being in the garden, gazing up at the beautiful blue sky, when you see this huge airship slowly approaching, blotting out the sun and maybe people staring out the windows at you,” Dr. Richards said.
While the Airlander flies lower than fixed-wing aircraft, it still travels a significant distance above the ground, according to HAV.
Mr. Grundy said, “The second thing to notice is noise, which is now a significant issue for anybody living near an airport.” “The Airlander will be considerably quieter than the jet planes we are used to hearing.”
Katie Deighton can be reached at [email protected]
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