Baby Got Blimp

England is investing in a massive airship that could represent the future of air travel.
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England is investing in a massive airship that could represent the future of air travel.
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The largest aircraft in the world is surprisingly practical. So say the good people of England, who know from practical and will be making a $5.24-million investment in the Airlander 10 through their august government. Manufactured by UK-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (with some financial backing from Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson) and based on U.S. Military designs, the Airlander is more streamlined than most blimps and incredibly cost effective for transporting goods. The floating fortress, which derives some lift from its form and most from its helium filling, can carry some 20,000 pounds of cargo at a time.

But the return of lighter-than-air ambitions isn’t just exciting for practical (and ecological) reasons. The ship represents one potential future for commercial travel. Anyone ready to replace the rigors of long haul scrunching will have a potentially spacious alternative. First class cabins, a rare luxury in the skies these days, could become a worthwhile investment, something to enjoy over the course of a day-long flight to the Bahamas. Flying isn’t great and cruising isn’t great, but the combination of the two could be marvelous. 

Here’s hoping an American industrialist will see the potential in that giant ship we invested $154 million to make then scrapped. Ten pounds says Richard Branson is already looking for the blueprints.

AirLander from Airlander by Hybrid Air Vehicles on Vimeo.

Photos by Oli Scarff/Getty Images