The Airship Could be the Latest in Passenger Travel

Airplane designers and manufacturers such as Boeing and AirBus are constantly working toward "Greener" aircraft that are more fuel efficient, quieter, and leave a smaller carbon footprint across our world (see our post on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner). In this perpetual search a few designers are re-thinking the airship. Yes, that's right - the airship, otherwise known as a zeppelin, is now hovering on the horizon as the next modern means of passenger travel and cargo transport.

Already the U.S. Army is investing in the concept. In June it awarded Northrop Grumman a $517 million contract to build three "Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle" hybrid airships. For military use airships make a lot of sense, since they can hover at 20,000 ft and linger over target areas collecting intelligence data.

Where the military leads, commercial enterprise often follows. Britain's Hybrid Air Vehicles plans to create the world's largest airship. "It's a hybrid because we're combining helium lift, aerodynamic lift, a hovercraft landing system with vectored thrust," said Gordon Taylor, HAV's marketing chairman. Taylor has a vision of a new age of airships for travel, with hundreds of passengers floating their way across the Atlantic.

The newspaper, The U.K. Telegraph, reports that the new generation of airships update the old technology with "Green": ultra-lightweight, UV-proofed, super-strong polyester, a high-tech shape that provides its own lift, fiber-optic controls, vectored thrust and the hovercraft landing system.

An airship in the U.S. is already flying and taking passengers. The Farmer's Insurance Company, in partnership with Airship Ventures, owns and operates the Zeppelin Eureka, which will be on tour through-out the northwest during August and September, 2010. The Farmer's airship is 15 feet longer than a 747 and 50 feet wider than the largest blimp. A zeppelin has a rigid internal structure, unlike a blimp.

"Flying on a Zeppelin captures the original romance of flight, so often lost in this day of getting from A to B in the fastest time possible," Airship Ventures Chief Executive Officer Alexandra Hall said in a news release. "Barnstorming the Pacific Northwest gives us an opportunity not only to embark on a fabulous journey and introduce the airship to new fans, but also to remind people how magical soaring in the skies can be."

Whether it's on a Dreamliner or a Zeppelin, there's no doubt that future air travel to your timeshare is sure to be, well - Futuristic! And a whole heck of a lot of fun.

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