Commercial use remained a possibility, as evidenced by the announcement that Spanish airline Air Nostrum has just placed an order for 10 units of the airship, under an agreement estimated at over $600 million. Under the deal, HAV will start production on 10 units of the Airlander 10 (affectionately known as the Flying Bum because of its curvaceous shape) in the UK, as early as next year. The airships are expected to take to the skies beginning with 2023.
For starters, the airships will only fly locally over Spain. Their biggest selling point is neither speed nor capacity: one such Bum can fly 100 passengers from Barcelona to Majorca in four hours, but it will be a zero-carbon flight, which is something not a single passenger jet can boast of today. By 2030, HAV plans to offer the Airlander 10 with fully electrical propulsion, thanks to four E-HAV1 500 kW electric motors produced by Collins Aerospace. The current prototype still has hybrid propulsion.
The helium-filled Airlander 10 also offers more space onboard than any other passenger jet, so a spacious cabin and luxurious amenities will try to compensate for the extended flight time. With an Airlander 10, the flight itself will be the adventure and not the destination as it is with today’s jets. The aircraft can fly as high as 20,000 feet (6,096 meters), has a range of 4,000 nautical miles (4,603 miles / 7,408 km), and can remain in the sky up to five days manned and two weeks under unmanned operation.
As noted above, the Airlander 10 has had a troubled and oft-delayed start. The production-ready model should have taken off in 2019, and then in 2020, which was then pushed to 2024 and, with the latest announcement, to 2026. If you’re a glass-half-full-kind of person, at least HAV is still working on it and not abandoning plans for civilian use.