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Airship Association View on the Scientific American Article “Helium Hokum: Why Airships Will Never Be Part of Our Transportation

Scientific American recently posted an interesting article on their guest Blog at http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=helium-hokum-why-airs... , by Mr Joseph Dick. We understand that Mr Dick has worked for a number of Airship Development companies over the years, and his article is worth reading. The Airship Association acknowledges Mr Dick’s expertise in airship engineering and skill and supports much of what is stated in his article. It is unlikely, in the foreseeable future, that the airship will have a role to play in the mass transportation of people and cargo. However the Airship Association believes there is a place for airships in various niche markets. Goodyear, The Lightship Group and Airship Management Services have successfully operated airships for advertising purposes for many years. Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik have successfully built airships for both tourism and advertising since the year 2000 with orders to produce more and further developed airships. There has been much talk about cargo carrying airships but we must bear in mind that currently no cargo carrying airship exists. Our judgement therefore needs to be measured and accurate. The Airship Association believes there is a rightful place for cargo carrying airships but, at the moment, we envisage that to be only in niche markets. An example often given is the transportation of equipment in northern Canada currently carried out by conventional trucks but only in the period when the climatic conditions provide a relatively small and decreasing window to prepare temporary roads across the frozen Arctic tundra. Although an airship is not as fast as a modern cargo jet it is certainly faster than a truck and an airship does not need the expensive infrastructure required by a large jet transport aircraft. This surely would be an ideal application for a cargo airship. Again we must be aware that in order to achieve such a successful and cost-effective civil operation the airship requires many governmental approvals as yet to be defined. The American government has placed orders for three large high altitude surveillance airships. These airships are currently under construction with the first due to fly in 2012. Fortunately, because this is a military application, the craft does not require all of the vigorous approvals required by a commercial craft. The venture will provide the first insight as to whether a cargo carrying airship of similar size is feasible. Load exchange problems still require a solution, but the hybrid nature of recent designs mitigates much in its favour in this regard. In conclusion, the Airship Association agrees with much of the article, but it does not agree that airships are relegated to a sideshow. Airships are in the main ring of solutions to niche markets such as long term surveillance, advertising, tourism, fisheries protection and anti-piracy protection. The Airship Association supports those companies which are actively engaged in solving the problems and ultimately producing airships that are cost-effective, efficient and built for purpose. Henry Ford once said “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.” Peter Ward Chairman

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