No sooner had AOPA reported about two companies bringing monster airships to market than a third company, Lockheed Martin, got an order for a dozen of its 300-foot-long craft from Straightline Aviation in England.
In January 2006, Lockheed Martin competed and flew its P-791 half-size demonstrator in an effort to win a U.S. Army contract for an aerial surveillance airship, but lost out to Hybrid Air Vehicles. The project was then defunded following a successful flight by Hybrid Air Vehicles. Watch a video of the P791’s flight, and be sure to play it through to the landing.
Straightline CEO Mark Dory told AOPA from his office in England that he will base the airships all over the world where markets exist to include Canada, Alaska, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and China. He will not be buying Hybrid Air Vehicles for the moment since that company has to go through testing and certification, while Lockheed claims to have the certification paperwork at the ready. He confirmed the first delivery will take place in late 2018, while other deliveries are scheduled for 2019 and 2020. Here’s a brief video about Lockheed’s hybrid airship.
Straightline signed a letter of intent to purchase 12 aircraft at $40 million each, with the first delivery coming in late 2018. Lockheed Martin will have to build it first, and then allow Straightline to fly it away. The demonstrator flew at only 60 knots, the slowest of the three competing airships now in planning or flight testing stages.
The Straightline airships, bought through Lockheed Martin’s sales representative Hybrid Enterprises of Atlanta, Georgia, can lift 47,000 pounds of payload. For normal operations it needs a 2,400-foot runway but for vertical takeoff and landing, it needs an area of only 500 feet. It is powered by four 300-horsepower diesel engines and can carry 19 passengers or cargo 1,400 nautical miles.
Aeroscraft, located in Los Angeles, plans to certify its cargo airship in five years. Hybrid Air Vehicles has completed its first aircraft and will spend 2016 testing it. The first flight could come in one to two months, the start of 200 hours of testing this year but certification has not begun.