Air Nostrum has doubled the number of Airlander airships it plans to buy from UK-based aircraft developer Hybrid Air Vehicles.
The regional airline group, which includes Hibernian Airlines in Ireland and Mel Air in Malta initially ordered 10 of the 100-passenger hybrid airships in June 2022. The company has now doubled that order to expand the potential Airlander network from Spain into the Mediterranean region, including Malta.
The Airlander 10 will have a range of 4,600 miles (7,400km), a top speed of around 85mph (km/h) and will be able to stay airborne for up to five days. The Airlander has been in development since 2007.
The 302 x 143ft (92 x 43.5m) helium-filled airship is part lighter-than-air blimp and part airplane. Its shape is designed to minimize fuel usage through the additional lift it gives the airship.
The Airlander 10 is fueled by kerosene, but according to Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV)will achieve a 90% fuel emissions reduction compared to equivalent aircraft. The company plans to use a hydrogen fuel cell system to power the Airlander 10 in the future to produce zero emissions.
The first Airlander 10 is expected to be in flight test from 2026 and enter commercial service before 2029. HAV and Mel Air have already begun talks with Malta’s Government on potential routes, including Malta-Gozo, Malta-Sicily, and other links with Italy, Tunisia, and Libya.
Miguel Ángel Falcón, chairman of Mel Air and vice president of Air Nostrum said, “There are many factors that motivate us in flying Airlander, including a very low fuel consumption, bringing great ecological and economic benefits, the high operational versatility of being able to take-off and land on land and water, the family concept offering from 10 to 50 tonnes of payload starting with 100 passengers on the Airlander 10, all in an environment of great passenger comfort.
“These are just some critical factors that make the Airlander an excellent aircraft for regional flights”.
Tom Grundy, CEO of Hybrid Air Vehicles said, “Airlander is designed to deliver a better future for commercially appealing and truly sustainable aviation services, by enabling new transport services and better growth options for our customers. Airlander 10 will make this possible by 2027, and Airlander 50 will build on it.
“We’re so pleased to have doubled Air Nostrum’s reservation to 20 aircraft, and to have its backing for our journey and support for our Airlander 50 Development Programme.
HAV recently set out plans to develop Airlander 50, a larger version of the hybrid airship suitable for freight applications as well as passenger ones.
The company plans to build its hybrid airships in the UK and earlier this year announced a £7 million (US$9 million) investment with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority to build a factory in the region.