The Telegraph: Airships to Provide Climate Friendly Air Transport

Hindenburg Hydrogen Explosion Disaster
Last time someone tried tp create a Hydrogen economy – the Hindenburg Hydrogen Explosion Disaster – By Gus Pasquerella – http://www.lakehurst.navy.mil/nlweb/images/1213d.gif, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=632191

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Low carbon enthusiasts are promoting the idea of airships. But there is a sound reason why this form of travel was abandoned, other than the a few famous accidents.

How airships could provide the future of green transport

The UK is a leader in the airship revival, going head to head with France in an escalating global race

AMBROSE EVANS-PRITCHARD
23 August 2020 • 8:00pm

Zeppelins and dirigible airships are with us again after eighty years out of favour – faster and hopefully much safer than in the inter-War era – promising ultra-low carbon air transport for the net-zero age.

It may not be long before we can start eating air-flown vegetables from Peru or blueberries from Kenya without feeling pangs of guilt. Fresh food may reach us in cargo Hindenburgs without the unconscionable CO2 footprint of jet freight.

If all goes well, we will be able to hop virtuously from Liverpool to Belfast in point-to-point travel, or Stockholm to Helsinki, almost in the time it takes for a regular flight from door to door. We can hope to lift off quietly from a field close to London in the early evening, retreat to a couchette after dinner and wake up in Barcelona, Rome or Val d’Isere.

As it happens, Britain is a throbbing centre of the airship revival, going head to head with France for global leadership. It could arguably capture part of the $120bn air freight market and displace a slice of the vastly greater truck haulage business in congested zones or regions with poor infrastructure.

Read more: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/08/23/britain-could-lead-carbon-free-transport-create-booming-green/

Quite apart from famous accidents like the Hindenburg, Airships were abandoned because they are more vulnerable to weather than airplanes. That gigantic gas bag is a lot of surface area for updrafts or clear air turbulence to push on.

Proponents claim their new designs are capable of handling substantial bad weather, and they generate less wake turbulence than traditional aircraft. Wake turbulence is tornado like vortices generated by aircraft wings, which are sometimes blamed for damaging the roofs of people living near airports.

Hybrid Airships Could Change the Economics of Asia and Africa

Glen Hendrix
Jun 18, 2019

The historic airship has a lot going for it. It can carry a large payload faster than a passenger liner. There is very little turbulence and it has an impressive range. They can hover or turn in place. Flying low, they don’t typically require pressurization.

And it has some serious drawbacks. It requires attentive ground crews to keep it near the ground when loading and unloading. It is vulnerable to wind gusts on the ground and in the air, where it must avoid bad weather at all costs. Hangar space has to be huge and, therefore, expensive. They are so huge, an old German airship hangar was converted into a large, covered waterpark. Using hydrogen in conjunction with flammable construction material is bad, bad, bad.

Because a lot of these bad things are surmountable, a company has decided to bring back the airship. It is a hybrid airship called Airlander. It is hybrid because it gets its lift from three sources; helium-filled bag, wing-shaped lifting body, and thrusters. Using these in combination allows the ship to land like a plane but with a much shorter runway. It can also hover and come straight down, doing a vertical landing or takeoff like a helicopter. It carries its own anchor mast and can withstand 80 kilometer winds without a hangar. Which is the point. It doesn’t need a hangar and requires only a two-person ground crew for the Airlander 10 with a 10 metric ton capacity and none for the Airlander 50 with a 50 ton capacity. Production models are expected to be in the air by 2020.

Read more: https://medium.com/@glenhendrix50/hybrid-airships-could-change-the-economics-of-asia-and-africa-748603da92d7

Note (to add to the confusion), the article above mentions turbulence, but means wake turbulence (generated by the movement of aircraft). I mentioned clear air turbulence, which is a dangerous weather condition.

There is another serious problem airships would have to address.

There are three gasses which have been used to loft commercial airships, hydrogen, helium and hot air.

Hot air requires a lot of heat to produce and maintain. While there are designs which involve solar heating (making the gas bag very dark, to absorb sunshine), nobody seems to be discussing this as an option, so let’s leave it for now.

Hydrogen is cheap, plentiful and extremely dangerous. It forms a flammable mixture with air at a wide range of concentrations, and can be ignited by the slightest spark. While there are debates about what caused the Hindenburg to burn so rapidly, there is no doubt the use of hydrogen as a lifting gas contributed to the fire.

Helium is inert, it cannot be set on fire. But the global supply of helium is extremely limited. For now helium is available for frivolous purposes like party balloons because there is also a limited set of uses for helium, but this would change very rapidly if commercial airships took to the sky. In addition, the world’s very limited supply of helium is very much tied to fossil fuel extraction – Qatar is a leading global supplier of Helium. If fossil fuel extraction is scaled back, no more helium.

There are other gasses which could conceivably be used, such as Argon. Argon can be extracted from the air, just under one percent of the atmosphere is Argon. But while Argon is lighter than air, Argon is a lot heavier than Hydrogen or Helium, so a much larger gas bag would be required to lift the same payload using Argon, if such an airship could be built at all.

So it seems inevitable that a commercial airship operation would have to eventually embrace flammable hydrogen as a lifting gas.

Lets just say I wouldn’t be keen to set foot on one.

Correction (EW): h/t Roger Taguchi – I got Argon and Neon mixed up, Neon is lighter than air, but does not occur at sufficient abundance on Earth to make it a viable option. Argon is heavier than air, so despite its relative abundance it is not an option as a lifting gas. Note to self check the periodic table next time…

146 thoughts on “The Telegraph: Airships to Provide Climate Friendly Air Transport

  1. I don’t think this idea will work so well. If they want the wind turbines to produce full power at an elevation of 300 feet, then what will the wind speed be at a few thousand feet or higher? There was a company talking about doing this several years ago, did some stock offerings, and then never heard from them again. The losses from catastrophic failures in inclement weather will far outweigh any success they have with flights in fair weather. Give this idea up now, as it didn’t work before and it won’t work again. It will end badly and I wouldn’t invest in this wacky scheme. The hyperloop makes a lot more sense if you actually wanted to move people and goods through a narrow corridor, 24/7 in rain, wind, snow or shine.

    https://globalnews.ca/news/7296732/transpod-hyperloop-ultra-high-speed-edmonton-calgary/

    • There is a solution for lighter-than-air ships! It’s a new non-flammable form of hydrogen – it’s cheap and plentiful – and brought to you by the same people who invented catastrophic man-made global warming and the Covid-19 full-Gulag lock-down.
      [Do I really have to say sarc/off?]

    • Just don’t build a hyperloop in Caifornia. It won’t run when the Sun goes down or the wind stops blowing.

    • One problem with airships are the fact that they HAVE to be silvered and highly reflective because, once the rise above the clouds, they are in sunshine all the time, with night-time being a lessor part of the day. It would be easy to travel only at night, but that immediately makes the system more complex, avoiding sun or not avoiding sun light during a given movement of mass. Imagine the thriller movie where the heroes have to figure out ways not to die if the sun hits the ship, with hiding in a hurricane as a last option. Great fun there.

      A black ship would be very hard to manage as it would be trying to heat up all the time at cruising altitude. Either some gas needs to be dumped or power must be applied to keep the altitude from increasing. Do not forget that the lifting power of the gas depends on the density of the atmosphere at a given altitude. This is more complex than it appears at first glance.

      • “once the rise above the clouds, they are in sunshine all the time”

        Oh perfect…why didn’t they mention they were solar powered, their surface covered in flexible lightweight solar panels. They could manufacture hydrogen on the fly, so to speak, for the lift, or the electricity to run the propellors.

        Actually, there was talk 10-15 years ago of ‘parking’ these types of airships permanently at 40,000 feet with the solar PV aspect, to operate as floating cell towers. Or supplying internet/TV. Something like this might make sense if you could service it, since it would remain at 40,000 feet for its lifetime, (above the weather) using the solar power to manufacture hydrogen for lift and the electricity to run the cell ‘tower’ infrastructure 24/7. Something like this might make sense if it worked. But not for hauling blueberries and freight.

        • Idea failed.
          In the real word: hydrogen and helium leak.
          There are also serious power issues in remaining on station – since there is actually air movement even at 40,000 feet.
          Then there’s the power problem: you don’t need that much power to broadcast from a cell tower to a single phone – that distance averages 2 miles or less even though rural areas – the towers can service a 10 mile range.
          40000 feet = 7.5 mile minimum = much. much higher power to transit to/from – which in turn drains power at both ends. Inverse square law at work.
          Even if the solar panels can supply in the daytime – you need them to work at night too. For which you now need to add heavy/expensive batteries.
          I imagine there are also issues with air traffic control, and no doubt many other problems (radiation blockage by atmosphere likely pretty reduced at 40k feet).

          • The HAV Airlander 10 was originally designed for persistent surveillance over Afganistan. It was designed to be resilient to gunfire, the pressure in the canopy is not much higher than atmospheric so if a hole was punched in it the gas would take a long time to leak to any significant extent. BTW, the article claims that a large ground crew is needed to handle airships. While this is true of the old lighter than air dirigibles, the Hybrid Air Vehicle gets a lot of its lift from aerodynamic lift and from its vectoring thrust. Without these, the craft is heavier than air so doesn’t require the big crew and ballasting . As for Charles’ point about the expansion of the lifting gas due to heating, the answer is ballonettes.
            Declaration of interest, I’m a shareholder in HAV. I believe in putting my money where my mouth is.

          • The thunderstorms in the ITCZ will reach in excess of 70,000ft with updrafts of the order of 100kts or more vertical speed next to downdrafts of similar speeds.
            And it is the windshear and turbulence that are the real problem of all dirigibles. Even fixed wing aircraft can break up in thunderstorms. Dirigibles currently cannot survive severe turbulence that is found around storms. So your blueberries from Peru may end up scattered into the Gulf of Mexico along with bits of dirigible. The reason that the UK stopped producing airships was not the Hindenberg it was the R-101 that crashed in France due to turbulence. So with a line squall along a cold front, a derecho set of storms, ‘pop corn thundershowers’ as are seen all over the southern US this time of year. It is unlikely that any dirigible could reach the level of safety for a civil air transport certification. So far they have operated as military or on experimental certifications.

            Airships are a really nice idea – but will have to show that they can survive in severe convective weather. Currently, they cannot.

      • Rather than venting gas, it could be compressed and stored, which increase it’s density beyond atmospheric pressure. The compressed gas could then be released and reused over and over, as the conditions dictate. This would be a suitable way to add or subtract lift, while preserving whatever gas is employed.

  2. “head to head with France in an escalating global race”

    How far is it across the English Channel 🙂

    Global.. roflmao !!

  3. Argon is element 18, but its molecular weight is 40. The molecular weights of nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2) gases are 28 and 32, respectively. Since air is 78% N2, 21% O2, and 1% Ar, the average molecular weight of dry air is 0.78(28) + 0.21(32) + 0.01(40) = 29, which is less than 40. Therefore argon is denser than air, and an argon balloon would literally be like a lead balloon, sinking to the ground unless heated to become a hot argon balloon (in which case, why not use hot air instead/).

    • Perhaps the author meant Neon, at mass 20. But its atmospheric abundance is far, far below that of Ar and there are essentially no other sources.

      • Ammonia is better. MWt = 17 with a boiling point below water at: -33.34 °C. Ammonia gas is not highly flammable.

        It’s all conjecture because no one would seriously use balloons for transport when airplanes are available.

        • We used Ammonia at work and it had it’s own building with thick concrete walls and roof with special roof vents with large blow out panels as at the right mix with air it was extremely explosive. Strange to say the company ditched it as soon as it could.

          James Bull

          • The X-15 hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft used anhydrous ammonia fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. It was difficult to start, but it did indeed burn!

          • James,
            Ammonia is not very dangerous with proper precautions and following refrigeration code. Certainly safer than spraying liquid nitrogen around. Used in hockey rink and cold storage plant, meat packing plant refrigeration systems everywhere. Its repugnant odor, if leaking, makes it generally unsuitable for air conditioning or residential use, but is an advantage in locating leaks in large industrial systems. The worst accidents have been the result of inexperienced hockey rink staff operating refrigeration equipment that is obviously in need of repair.

  4. While they may be faster than passenger liners, that isn’t saying much.
    They might be faster than cars, and if the winds aren’t strong would have the advantage of being able to travel in a straight line.
    They might be able to supplement long distance trucks, however trains would still be more efficient.
    I just don’t see people willingly giving up the speed of air travel.

  5. It seems likethese global warming nutballs spend a lot of time thinking up crackpot schemes to lower CO2 emissions, when the solution is practically staring them in the face : small modular reactors
    using molten salt or totally safe light water SMRs, like Holtec’s 160MW buried SMR, ready in a couple of years.

      • Yes, ammonia is one half of ammonium nitrate. Any nitrogen compound would rather be nitrogen gas, N2, and getting there is very exothermic. It’s toxicity is another major problem.

      • Do not forget that the greenies are depending on green energy to create lots of jobs. In wind and solar most, jobs are in the building (which takes a lot of skills and techniques) and in maintenance. What could be more green than a Roman galley? Every rower could be on an I.V. drip of nutrients, including a relaxing component to make them more compliant, and they could then row for hours straight. Yeah, that would create lots of jobs and job security, as they would not fire you until you are dead.

  6. Man Popular Mechanics runs stories about “the return of the airship” every few years or so, and has since I can remember.

    And I’m a child of the 80s. So far 0.0% of those companies featured have produced a product, much less started an industry.

    Goodyear Blimps are the last vestiges of this idea.

    • PM runs flying cars are finally just around the corner articles every 6 months or so . Where are they?

      • Yeah. And 2015 came and went and I still can’t get a hover conversion for my car (or a Mr Fusion power source for it either). I still need roads! The Back to the Future movies lied to me! 😉

    • When I was first starting out as an aerospace engineer back in the late 70’s, Aviation Week kept having ads in the it for a company in the UK called Thermo-Skyships, Ltd. We always sat around and said hey, that’s what I want to do, go build airships! None of us ever applied, and the ads faded away along with the company. I think some derivative of it is out there still but still a pipe dream. Made for a fun fantasy life for us though.

  7. So, to save the climate we should convert air travel to something extremely vulnerable to the weather?

    • The mining company, Quest Rare Minerals, LLC that signed a contract to use Lockheed’s airships went bankrupt in 2018.

  8. The Goodyear and other passenger airships remain in service for a reason, the same reason huge airships may indeed someday return. And it’s not ecology. It’s ROMANCE. Anyone who does not get the appeal of airships has no soul.

    • Honest question.
      “The Goodyear and other passenger airships“.
      Passenger airships?
      Other than the tourist industry for sightseeing, where are they? What routes do they fly?

      • I never said they were NOT for sight-seeing tourists. In fact, that was my main point. Pleasure, not necessity, is the whole point of such airships, as with big passenger ships. Just half a century ago people thought the QE2 was the last ocean liner, the last of a dying breed. A hundred cruise ships larger than the QE2 have entered service since then. Only one, the Queen Mary 2, functions as more than a cruise ship, crossing the North Atlantic regularly.

  9. This wouldn’t be such a bad idea except for the fact that helium is the ultimate escape artist. Possibly you could use a compressor to recover unneeded gas from temperature and altitude changes but that wouldn’t solve the problem. Helium is so tiny that it can escape from a sealed glass helium neon laser. To fix a laser that has failed because of this, you simply put in in a container of helium and defuse helium back into the laser.

    Whatever they make the gas bags out of is going to lose helium and the only question is how fast it will be lost. It’s a real waste of a valuable gas that has other more important uses. It’s also important to remember that helium is recovered from natural gas wells. If they should ever figure out how to live without fossil fuel, where are they going to get helium from?

    You might be able to get away with hydrogen in a blimp design where all the gas is held in a single bag outside of the ship but it would take a good deal of history before passengers would be comfortable in such a ship. While it could still burn, you wouldn’t have the danger of oxygen mixed with helium in an enclosed space. The germans knew this was a problem with the Hindenburg so they would take anything that would start a fire from the passengers. They also were careful about items that could cause sparks in the gas bag areas. The claim is the fire started because of the paint used on the outside of the ship. Maybe so but once started, there was plenty of fuel to feed it.

    • You’re right, but diffusion bonded metalized laminates of polymers, such as mylar and kapton can be made to have very low permeability. Just comes down to economics.

    • The Hindenburg was essentially painted with Thermite. The silver paint was a mixture of nitrate dope(highly flammable), finely powdered aluminum, finely powdered iron oxide(together highly flammable), and a few other bits.

      Once it caught on fire, up top just ahead of the fin from a probable static charge spark, it burned nearly explosively in about 38 seconds-21ft/sec.

      It was very fortunate that the airship was already very close to the ground allowing 62 of the passenger and crew to get off safely.

      Interestingly, small amount of large molecule hydrofluorocarbon fire retardants can mix with hydrogen and slow or suppress burning. The Hindenburg explode and didn’t burn because of air mixed with the hydrogen. It burnt because the skin burned rapidly-as shown in the varied film clips.

      • Mildly important nit pick here, but the Hindenburg didn’t explode. It burnt.

        Back in the day when I worked in mining there was a hydrogen explosion on site. This was in the building where the copper was refined via a process that is basically a massive lead-acid battery running backwards. Fun place. Massive baths of concentrated heated copper sulphate solution and equally massive amounts of electricity. The sulphates and other fun things in the air used to mixed with the sweat on your skin and form a mild acid that made your skin tingle. Also this was the same area where they extracted the gold and the chemicals used in that area could react with aluminium to form arsenic.

        Also hydrogen was released as a by produce and was normally dispersed by the large amounts of open vents at roof level. Except when it didn’t and one night there was a build up in the upper parts of the ceiling and bang it went.

        Fortunately minor damage and no injuries, but the point is that despite the large amount of expansion space available the blast still caused damage to the sheet metal cladding walls and roof panels and was loud enough that some of my friends who where about 5km away on a different part of the mine site at the time clearly heard it.

        Noise and damage.

        Hindenburg didn’t explode.

  10. Germany was not trying to create a hydrogen economy. Germany had no choice to use hydrogen in airships because helium was not readily available and Germany was banned from obtaining it. Weather was also a factor in the disaster. I find it odd that, in the fight against “climate change”, all the solutions seem to want us to revert back to technologies that are well known to be less efficient at pretty much everything, including use of fossil fuels.

    • Patrick: In other news, the British are also at the throbbing center of developing new rocks-by-the-river to replace fossil-fuel-burning planet-killing washing machines. (cue audio of “Rule Brittania”)

      • Yeah, that would not surprise me. Banning hoovers over a certain power rating, banning patio gas heaters and given what is happening in the UK now with COVID-19 I would say that’s the least of their worries.

  11. Now it’s back to airships. A few more recommendations/claims and we’ll be pre flight but without ice engine cars and trucks.

  12. Argon is not lighter than air! Its molecular weight is 39.948 versus air at approximately 29. Perhaps they meant neon, which is also in short supply. Neon has a molecular weight of 20.180 and is bouyant in air. Steam is also bouyant with a molecular weight of 18.015, so you could use a large insulated bag and heat it. Work just as well as the rest of these bad ideas. Thunderstorms will take out all of them.

      • Eric, don’t feel too bad. We all post things without proof-reading them. I used to demonstrate the high-pitched helium voice by breathing in helium and then speaking, getting a big laugh from my Chemistry students. One day, I tried the demo, but my voice became deeper in pitch! I realized right away that I did not use helium; when I looked at the cylinder, it was a cylinder of argon! Because helium and argon are both noble gases, I used the same regulator on both cylinders, so didn`t notice the difference (when you`re rushing a lecture). Oxygen cylinders use their own oil-free regulators due to risk of fire, and hydrogen cylinders use a special regulator with a reverse thread, as I recall, so you can`t mix regulators with these gases. So kudos for your graceful response.

  13. Airships travel much slower than jets. How many vegetables and blueberries are going to go bad on the trip before the airships reach their destination?

    • “It may not be long before we can start eating air-flown vegetables from Peru or blueberries from Kenya without feeling pangs of guilt.”

      HUH?

      Guilt?

      Why eat blueberries only from Kenya if it causes such guilt? I get mine from a neighboring state because they don’t cost an arm and a leg. I believe there are blueberry farms pretty much the world over in places they will grow, chances are you can find one nearer than Kenya (unless you are near Kenya, in that case, you must feel guilty).

      I’m pretty sure most veggies are brought by truck/ cargo ship/truck from places around the world. But apparently only those from Peru cause guilt.

      What a stupid statement to make.

      To your point Myron: How many will go bad? The lot of them (pun intended).

      • “What a stupid statement to make”

        Absolutely, more proof, (as if we needed more) that these media types are in another world. They are so disconnected from any semblance of reality, it’s shocking really.

        I’m mean his name says it all……

        Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is International Business Editor of The Daily Telegraph.

    • Airships travel much slower than jets. How many vegetables and blueberries are going to go bad on the trip before the airships reach their destination?

      Just fly high enough to deliver them frozen. 😉 😉

  14. Maybe argon might not be a bad choice for an idea that seems something of a lead balloon?

  15. Say one carried wood pellets from North Carolina to DRAX in eastern UK…
    What is the flight path back?
    And what — if anything — would be the return load?
    Of course, the same question applies to ocean ships.

  16. Several years ago I was a lighter-than-air vehicle engineer in the US and I still recall a lot about blimps. And every time I see these new types of Airships, whatever kind, they are always looked at with some serious rose colored glasses. This article does touch on some fallacies but there are some fundamentals that I have never seen overcome.

    First is payload. Airships are big but actually only carry very little. The Airlander 10 claims 10 tons of capacity. 10 tons is about 25% less than a standard 737. And I suspect that the 10 tons isn’t total freight capacity but includes cabin, crew, stores and the like. Then, there’s a claim of replacing ground freight. Those $150,000 (new) trucks, with few infrastructure needs, carry can easily carry 30 tons today. I recall than helicopters can access some remote areas well too? The 50 ton version must be enormous. Hangars for these without water parks inside are where?

    Second is speed. Another source gave the maximum speed of 91 mph. A trip from Kenya to London with blueberries would take at 45 (just flying) hours without wind. 70 hours from Peru. And with the ground wind limit with the, what look like, “suction feet” is just 80 kph (48 mph). In air, it’s probably a lot less, so clear weather and good radar will be a necessity. You would also need emergency stopping points along the way to shelter (in big shelters) these airships.

    The third is they are aircraft. They are subject to all the same skilled labor, regulations and certifications. All three are both expensive and difficult to achieve. Believe it or not, blimps, big slow targets, get shot at a lot too. Gas bag holes are not flight critical but have to be fixed and the helium replaced. Helium can be a big deal as this article explains.

    An airship’s ability to stay afloat is commendable and there have been coastal and military applications. They can just hover around with cameras and radars like satellites. They need to be secured or relocated faster than the storm when the weather gets bad though. It didn’t seem addressed on the maker’s website. Maybe deflation is the plan?

    As for the other “virtues” of electric motors, less turbulence, CO2 emissions… I wish the Airlander folks all the best with those working out as imagined. Hey, maybe this time, they have all the new answers.

    And to Peter Morris, there are a few flying billboards other than Goodyear. But it’s certainly not $120 billion air freight target in the article.

    • Mention of speed and weight limits also implies that airships would burn at least as much fuel per kilometer as regular aircraft, it would seem?

      • You may be right that there is a simple function that shows that maintaining 60kts air speed for 10 hours requires the same energy as 600kts for 1 hour.
        Interesting thought.

  17. Please can I join the feasibility / advanced engineering study on this? I suggest we use pink unicorns for propulsion and purple ones for lift.

    Bear in mind that the hot hydrogen balloon was once a thing (Rozier).

  18. There is a solution for lighter-than-air ships! It’s a new non-flammable form of hydrogen – it’s cheap and plentiful – and brought to you by the same people who invented catastrophic man-made global warming and the Covid-19 full-Gulag lock-down.
    [Do I really have to say sarc/off?]

  19. How would we be able to build these super airships without fossil fuels? Production of the steel, aluminum, or other structural materials would be impossible without fossil fuels. And the mining of the ores to produce these materials would also be impossible. This is just another pipe dream!

  20. US military commissioned the Airlander 10 airship. It crashed on its second test flight and the program was stopped:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Fwj5ZsqAg8
    The builder purchased the airship and conducted 6 more test flights before giving up on it. It was written off after the 6th flight when its mooring tether let go. They are still promoting the design but its safety record does not inspire.

    Goodyear blimps have a good safety record but they will not allow lift off in winds above 20mph. That is quite limiting.

    Years ago I was given a present of a flight in a hot air balloon. There were two cancellations over a four week period before conditions suited getting the balloon inflated and floating aloft on the third try. It is all very serene once aloft but things get very tense as the ground approaches and the ground crew try to arrest the motion.

    One thing I learnt on that balloon ride was the need for pilots to produce spit. They used spit as a wind shear detector to determine the altitude they needed to fly at to go in a certain direction. Over the course of a 3 hour flight, the pilot managed to fly in all directions just by choosing the level to fly at and the various wind changes through the dawn period. That does not mean he could end up where he chose but he had enough control to get to one of the 10 or so predetermined landing sites scattered through the valley. He did change from the selected site to another about 30 minutes before the designated landing time.

    This is the perspective of the Goodyear Blimp training pilot:

    Despite those slow speeds, blimps are notoriously difficult to fly. (And with less than 40 blimp pilots in the world, it’s one of the rarest jobs on the planet.) There is no “flying by the numbers,” no set altitudes, airspeeds or power settings. The ship is so impacted by air pockets, wind and weather that a pilot needs to adapt moment-by-moment, operating by sense and intuition. “It’s seat-of-the pants flying,” says instructor pilot Mike Dougherty. “It’s different every time. No two take offs and landings are the same.”

    I think airship technology has a long way to go before becoming a reliable means of transport. It is a lot like wind generators meeting customer demands reliably.

  21. If private capital can somehow make these work and worthwhile, What is there to complain about?
    If they fail, only the investors have anything to complain about.

    Of course, in today’s world, there are likely to be some politicans that will successfully push through legislation mandating these things be built and used, wasting untellable amounts of public money, while finding 10,000 aspects of daily private life to direct in pursuit of their projects. It is politicians, not inventors and business venture, that needed to be throttled.

    • In Germany the Cargolifter is insolvent since years, the money flew sway, the Cargolifter didn’t left the ground.

    • PS
      The result of the Cargolifter dream, 38 Mio € taxmoney blown in the air.
      The interest to transport with airships was nul, zéro.
      Can’t imagine growing interest now.
      When back on my PC, I will look for more details.

  22. Speed is the main problem.
    Assuming a cruising speed of say, 60 mph, into a 60 mph headwind (which is not unusual) its range is zero.
    Or to put it another way, it’s fuel consumption is infinite.

    • Look, they managed to fly across the Atlantic in these things 70 years ago, lets focus on real problems to criticize, not imaginary ones. They crossed in about 30 hours I think, slower than a plane, but faster than a boat.

      • But will folk really want to take 10 hours for an airship journey, which would take one hour by jet?

        • I already acknowledged it is slower. It is slower to bike instead of taking a car, doesn’t make it a bad idea. The point is that a lot of the comments are attacking the idea as if it would not work. fact is it would work just fine, but working does not make it the best way to do something. If you cared and wanted to reduce carbon footprints from flying make jet fuel from electricity obtained via nuclear fission, fast and clean. That might be the better solution economically if we as a species say no to kerosene extracted from crude. And by that statement I am not saying we should say no to kerosene from crude. But you do need to look at things fairly when you make decisions and not be blinded by a desire for something to be wrong, when it is actually perfectly correct.

  23. Hooking up a tube and extraction system to AOC’s enormous mouth would provide enough hot air to lift entire galaxies.

    • Yes, but unfortunately It’d never pass local ordinances as it carries with it too much noise pollution.

  24. There’s already a concern about helium shortages for medical diagnostic and other essential equipment.

  25. Glen Hendrix writes;

    “They can hover or turn in place.”

    Yes and no.

    Look up ‘Static Lift’ and ‘Dynamic Lift’. Short summary is that not all of an airships lift comes from the gasbag. Airships are not magic. The rules of physics still apply.

    The Telegraph writes:
    “…blueberries from Kenya”

    Extremely dubious about this. Not that I eat blueberries, but I am assuming they have an unrefrigerated shelf life of a few days. Hence one assumes that anything berry related that is transported is going to require some sort of cool storage, so there goes some of your airship’s mass budget for a start.

    Anyway, assuming they can deal with that how many blueberries are we going to carry in real terms?

    Well in Australia a quick supermarket online search suggests blueberries are $20/kg

    Another quick search suggests the relatively modern Zeppelin NT can carry a payload of 1900kg. So $38000 final price (not profit) for your mid sized airship filled with blueberries.

    So… anyway with a bit more experience in supply chain management like to correct me if I was to say ‘not going to pay the bills’??

    Sorry, I have some massive love for airships – already spent several hours with my new resin printer at home trying to print myself a 1:1200 Mayfly… for… reasons… don’t judge me – but unfortunately reality is a harsh mistress.

  26. This was also picked up by Jo at Jonova :
    http://joannenova.com.au/2020/08/caravans-of-airships-riding-jetstreams-for-freight/
    I hope that she will not mind me quoting from her summary , because it explains that one part of the proposal is to replace container ships, using the jet stream as the energy source for transport :

    “An academic paper from the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis In Austria proposes using the Jet Stream to transport cargo on transcontinental routes without any need for power beyond the initial lift and descent. The cargo ships would float on high winds above 40,000 feet at an average speed of 160 km/h, displacing fleets of container shipping at sea. The study claims that they would cut fuel use by 96pc.
    The circular flow would always be from West to East – Shanghai to Los Angeles, New York to London, or Frankfurt to Mumbai – rotating in a perennial circuit. It would take eight days to cross half the world by the northern Jet Stream, and seven days by the southern route, beating maritime shipping on time as well as emissions.
    These unmanned super-Hindenburgs controlled by artificial intelligence could be over a mile long, spectral airships passing far overhead in caravans along regulated bands near the troposphere, emitting no sound or CO2.”
    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is a journalist difficult to characterise. On his “home ground” of economics he can
    produce very intelligent and conservative (unusual these days in a paper that has gone totally to the dark side) analyses – although he did predict the collapse of the euro “in days” at the time of the Greek fnancial crisis. However he produces complete nonsense once he gets onto the subject of renewables and climate change . Pity really.

    • A normal container ship carries about 50,000 tons worth of containers, delivers electrical power to refrigerated containers and are seldom delayed by bad weather.

      The article talks about a 50 ton airship, but let’s assume it is possible to handle production and infra structure for 500 ton airships, then compared to a single container ship, you need 100 gigantic airships and diesels to provide electricity for the refrigerated containers.

      Secondly a lot of freight, currently going with ship, will not do well with the low air pressure at jet stream altitude.

      Thirdly you have issues combating fire in the freight of these high altitude airships, whereas on a container ship you have sea water nearby.

      Fourthly the is the usual CO2 crab. a standard 4,500 container capacity ship contributes 40 times less plant food than an aircraft, on a per container bases.
      http://www.worldshipping.org/about-the-industry/liner-ships/container-ship-design

      My superficial conclusion would be that big freight airships, if not impossible, then at least not remotely a competitor to modern container ships.

      • While I agree that airships just aren’t feasible, It should be pointed out that your analysis only looking at half the picture. freighter ships, no matter how much cargo they can carry, can’t carry cargo across land, Airships can. So the competition isn’t just with freighters (which you covered very well) but with trucks & trains. Not to mention airplanes (which, like airships, can transport goods over both land and sea).

        While I haven’t run the numbers, I suspect airships fall considerably short against those other competitors as well. In short they’re a “solution” that has long since been passed over by better solutions.

      • An airship capable of carrying a 500 tonne load and flying at 40,000 feet would need to displace at least 2 million cubic metres of air in order to float/fly. That is about 10 times the size of the largest oil supertankers – all just to carry a mere 500 tonnes. Basic Archimedes’ principle.

  27. We used Ammonia at work and it had it’s own building with thick concrete walls and roof with special roof vents with large blow out panels as at the right mix with air it was extremely explosive. Strange to say the company ditched it as soon as it could.

    James Bull

  28. This idea is regurgitating for ages.
    The main problem: it depends on weather too much.
    A bit of wind and it flies in a wrong direction.
    Or crashes.

    • The nazis had a network that worked for transportation, the idea works, it just is not necessarily the best idea is all, but to pretend it does not work is ridiculous, they can be used for transport full stop.

  29. Must be a slow news day …. this old chestnut has been making the rounds for crack pot investors since WWI

  30. As Germans like to built the greatest, best what ever (Growian, Airschip, ren. energies), why not try to construct the biggest hot air balloon for traffic and transport ?
    /s

    • Some of the projects of the Grand Academy of Lagado bear an uncomfortable resemblance to the
      fatuous designs of the world according to Greens. Most noticeably perhaps in the comments from the distinguished professors of that august institution that with just a bit more money it will all work .

  31. I have a nice book,
    one of many strangely enough in this electronic world,
    its called Airshipwreck and details/covers all airshipwrecks up to date of publication in 1978

    I hope I do not have to buy any updated version

  32. Um.

    Any practical commercial airship will have to be quite large. That probably means a rigid body, which places a number of limits on the machine. For instance, the current altitude record for rigid airships is 24,000 feet. So we are talking about flying slap-bang middle of the weather zone.

    Also, ground handling problems increase geometrically with airship size…..

  33. Obviously if AOC manages to push a weather compliance legislation or convinces Zeus with free beers, chances are…

    For as long as weather exists, with nice things such as 90+mph updrafts, equally friendly downdrafts, mountain top rotors and cumulus-nimbus, winter-ops and icing, to quote a few, this is not going to happen sooner than the awaited flying car upgrade of my TDI.

    Wake turbulences are defined as the trail of turbulences our equipment leaves in it’s wake. Hence the radio communications of “heavy” to qualify aircraft heavier than 300’000 pounds and inform ATC to manage further separation from those following at identical or slightly lower altitudes.

    Like an anchored balloon, a hypothetical stationary fixed wings A/C does not produce any of those.

    Wake turbulences originate mostly at the wing tips, where air can abruptly escape upwards and rotate towards the fuselage. Hence the “winglets”, actually quite huge vertical extensions of modern machines.

    Therefore, comparing a lighter than air A/C that does not rely on airspeed around it’s wings for essential lift to a heavier than air machine that achieves lift because air moves around it’s wings, is a proof of baloney ignorance.

    Last but not least, the drag, be it motion or wind, of something moving in air is also proportional to its exposed surface area. Good luck with that when even firewalling the throttles, “gunning it”, leaves you only a marginal chance of hope for authority before sheer systems start to disassemble your office in midair.

  34. For the reasons already mentioned many times, this would have to use helium.
    The total global production of helium is about 24,000 tons per year.
    Helium is about one sixth the density of air so 1 kg has a buoyancy of approx 5 kg – before allowing for gas enveloppe, etc., so call it 4 kg lift.
    Conclusion: if the whole world output was dedicated to filling airships it would provide about 100,000 tons of new transport capacity per year. Total world shipping capacity: many millions, even billions of tons??
    Conclusion: complete hogwash.

  35. I’m surprised no-one else has spotted this, but it really could be the answer to global warming. If they make the top surface of the envelope out of that shiny mylar stuff, it will reflect the incoming solar energy, and as it would probably need about ten airships to do the work of one medium sized airliner there would be enough of them to reduce the global average temp beyond the pre-industrial age, maybe even back to the last glaciation. Problem solved! Which way to the patent office?

  36. The author of the Telegraph article, one Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, is your typical innumerate green-goggled journo. He has ‘previous’ as regards this sort of bilge. The Telegraph ought to help us lower our blood pressure and relieve him of the obligation to write anything for them.

  37. The weight of the gas determines what you can lift, the only contenders are hydrogen and helium, ignore everything else put forward. and between the two, hydrogen wins. In a green economy, a solar cell clad hydrogen zeppelin would require no fuel, and be essentially free( aside the up front expense and maintenance). It would have many advantages for access to undeveloped areas making us more flexible, and with smart control linked to weather satellites should be able to avoid the bad weather. What’s the downside? The real problem with hydrogen is terrorist attack, it is not a difficult task to make the hydrogen bag safe, but it is vulnerable to attack. That would be my only concern. They are also much slower than planes for transatlantic s etc. But they are actually pretty green assuming the solar cells are not environmentally damaging 10 years down the road. If people were actually serious about getting rid of fossil fuels, then ditching planes and upping zeppelins could be a way forward, albeit slowly and with the odd explosion.

      • They managed to make it work 70 years ago, a lot of progress has been made in engineering, and it is trivial to contain hydrogen for this purpose. It is the explosion risk that has to be engineered around, and I think it is risky technology, but totally viable

          • Whats the point of a discussion when people are blind to the obvious? It worked, 70 years, after a disaster they decided to can it. Luckily the earliest plane crashes where everyone died were not captured on film, so people did not get scared and can that technology too. This is a technical question people, and it is clear and obvious that it technically works so stop trying to claim zeppelins would not work for bizarre fatuous reasons.

            Just to be equally fatuous, a zeppelin flying in to the world trade center would have bounced off and not been a bomb. There is not that much difference as regards danger.

            I reiterate that just because they work it does not make it the right thing for society to do, that is more complicated question than does it work.

        • Define “worked”. Because all those decades ago it ended in disaster and tragedy in large part because Hydrogen wasn’t safe.

  38. Many years ago, I read an article about a company that was designing a blimp to lift logs from remote logging sites.
    They were currently using helicopters to do this.
    The design got most of it’s lift from the helium, with 4 large fans providing the rest.

    • Piasecki PA97 Helistat.

      Destroyed with casualties by ground resonance during attempted maiden flight.

  39. After reading the usual very good comments, blimps are in the same category as windmills, solar panels, electric cars and low flush toilets. And for the promotion of a fraud.

    It would be a stretch to think they only crash in New Jersey. Reliability and safety seems to be the failure of such schemes.

  40. The regression back to primitive, inefficient technologies continues. Next up, give up horses/oxen (not fair to horses/oxen) and have people-drawn carriages to transport the elites.

  41. The mining company, Quest Rare Minerals, LLC that signed a contract to use Lockheed’s airships went bankrupt in 2018.

  42. Rather than venting gas, it could be compressed and stored, which increase it’s density beyond atmospheric pressure. The compressed gas could then be released and reused over and over, as the conditions dictate. This would be a suitable way to add or subtract lift, while preserving whatever gas is employed.

  43. On Airships, let the matket decide

    Re Clear air turbulence, my understanding is that it mainly occurs 20,000 to 40,000 ft. Airships would probably be below 10,000

    Also heavy weather on landing and take-off can be desparately entertaining for fixed wing aircraft

    • Keyword: Mainly. A very useful lingo for flight-tense passengers.

      Whatever happens closer to ground spells with other letters but can still void the warranty of your liner.

  44. Helium is a strategic material designated I think by DoD for use with Indium super conductors operating at 3.4 deg K . I think the DoD would have something to say if there was an upsurge in usage.

  45. Oh come on! You could easily lift a dirigible bigger than the Hindenburg by capturing all the hot air from just one U.S. politician. This hot air is already being released uncontrolled into the environment, so capturing it to perform useful work would be a huge improvement.

    If we use hot helium gas, listening to the politicians on lift-off could provide endless amusement.

    I volunteer our U.S. politicians be put to use in raising air ships high up into the stratosphere. AOC alone could power a fleet of such ships.

  46. Airships (even with carbon fibre) require just too high a strength to weight ratio to make them safe at any useful size.
    Britain abandoned airships after the R100 and IIRC it was the USS Shenandoah that really heralded the end of the airship in the USA.
    Ripped apart by turbulence and unable to cope with strong thermals.

    • IIRC it was the USS Shenandoah that really heralded the end of the airship in the USA.

      It may have ended US run airships, but it was the Hindenburg (a German airship) tragedy that took place in the US that ended the era of airship travel in the US (and pretty much the rest of the world).

  47. Couldn’t we capture and harness the hot air generated by parliaments and government legislatures around the world to use in hot air balloons? Particularly that of the USA?

  48. Love these Big Oil barron scare tactics.

    Let’s review. What was the largest BOMB ever exploded on the planet?
    Hydrogen Bomb.

    What is a Bomb – uncontrolled release of energy.

    What is a Hydrogen Bomb explosion – an uncontrolled release of MASSIVE, no let’s try again MAAAASSSIIIIVE amounts of energy. From very little hydrogen.

    This is where we need to do research. How release 1/1000 of this energy without a Big Boom.

    Otherwise, russian nuclear scientists are saying that we don’t have more than 50 years of uranium left on the planet, realistically. And that’s more dangerous than “global warming” alarmists.

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