Spanish airline reserves Airlander 10 blimps for 2026 passenger service
Image credit: Hybrid air vehicles
Spanish airline Air Nostrum has reserved ten 100-seat helium airships with the goal of creating a commercial service for passengers from 2026.
The 44m wide and 26m high airship was originally developed for the US government as a long-endurance surveillance aircraft.
The US later scrapped the programme due to defence funding cuts, prompting Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) to redesign and redevelop the craft for civilian purposes. However, in 2016, during what was supposed to be the beginning of 200 hours of test flights, the prototype aircraft crashed setting back its commercial deployment.
The Airlander 10 fleet is now set for initial operations across Spain from 2026, with production of the aircraft expected to start this year in South Yorkshire.
Air Nostrum said the project would create “thousands of skilled jobs in green aerospace technologies” as well as supporting the UK government’s levelling up agenda in the region.
The reservation agreement follows six months of rigorous studies and modelling carried out by Air Nostrum and HAV into the operation of Airlander 10 on Spanish domestic aviation routes and the associated economics.
Airlander 10 aircraft are expected to diversify the airline’s existing aircraft fleet currently operating on these routes, carrying 100 passengers while producing only around one tenth of the emissions.
Hybrid aircraft have been seen as a technology that could play a role in the transition towards cleaner forms of aviation.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “It is wonderful to see the UK right at the forefront of the technology’s development. This agreement enhances the possibility of the revolutionary, British-made and designed, Airlander 10 aircraft flying across Spanish skies. It is more proof of how the UK’s businesses are embracing new technology to drive growth and support high- skilled UK jobs.”
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. Sustainability, which is good news for everyone, is already a non-negotiable fact in the daily operations of commercial aviation. Agreements such as these are a very effective way to reach the decarbonisation targets contemplated in the Fit for 55 legislative initiative.”
HAV expects that the Airlander 10 will be the world’s first large-scale aircraft to achieve zero-emissions flight.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.