Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson has an insanely ambitious plan to bring huge Zeppelins back to the skies

Source:  by Joshua Barrie, published April 1, 2015, 1:57 PM

Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson has an insanely ambitious plan to bring huge Zeppelins back to the skies

British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has designed an enormous Zeppelin-like aircraft and is hoping to garner more investment through crowdfunding to see the project truly get off the ground. The Airlander 10 is the biggest aircraft in the world, bigger than a jumbo jet. It is a mix of aeroplane, airship, helicopter, and hovercraft. It has already received backing from the UK government and a personal investment from Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson. 

The Airlander, which is 60ft longer than an Airbus A380 (the biggest passenger jet) is searching for smaller backers to add to a £3.4 million government grant, the Guardian reports, as well as £250,000 given by the Iron Maiden star. The team wants to build hundreds of the airships to fill the skies, and is also working on the commercial flight-focused Airlander 50, which is even bigger and at prototype stage, HAV says.

Airlander technology was first patented in 2001, when it was taken over by the US military. But development was slow and spending cuts slowed progress down. Since then the airship has only had one test flight (in 2012) at the Lakehurst air force base in New Jersey. But now HAV has bought the intellectual property back, for just $300,000, the Guardian says. It had been paid $90 millionby the military — so it's really cashed in, too. There are big plans. The airship is now based near Bedford and HAV writes that public support is promising. The most notable supporter is Dickinson, who ploughed his cash into the project after meeting the "genius behind it," the late inventor Roger Munk.

Dickinson told the Guardian:

"I told my wife, I’m about to put £100k into a big bag of helium. It may go up in smoke. She said, people have to dream, and unless you can dream something it’s never going to happen. I’m not expecting to get my money back any time soon, I just want to be part of it. Being a rock person, I could put it up my nose, or buy a million Rolls Royces and drive them into swimming pools, or I could do something useful. There are very few times in your life when you’re going to be part of something big."

Dickinson has previous entrepreneurial chops: His Trooper beer brand has sold 3.5 million pints in the UK.

Dickinson believes the technology has been ignored and feels it could be the answer to the world's aviation needs. According to HAV, the ships can reach speeds of up to 100mph and are much greener and quieter than current planes. They're propelled by four engines, and use helium to fill the hull.

As HAV writes on its website, the project is also, in a way, a relic of the past. Bedford is where the British airships were built way back in 1915, then incredibly "cutting edge" technology. Zeppelins were in action not long after. The "hotels in the skies" were an exciting prospect for travel, especially between the UK and US. One flight halved the crossing time (from four days by ship). 

But memories have been somewhat tarnished by the famous fire and crash in 1937. The Hindenburg disaster finished production and the luxury transportation they afforded the rich and famous was finished. Until now, it seems. Today, the company believes the Airlander 10 can be used for communications, filming, and surveillance, which is why UK defence is interested. And with the Airlander 50 there are plans to "transform and disrupt the cargo market by building a craft that will be able to carry 50 tonnes." HAV is going to launch demonstrations in 2016 to try to raise extra cash to fund the enterprise to begin with.

The group adds:

"This enormous construction will be able to transport goods and equipment literally to all corners of the earth. It can land on water, desert or ice, enabling access to remote and inaccessible places, from the jungles of Africa to the icy terrain of Canada. All the studies indicate that there is a market for up to 1,000 of these craft,” the website explains.
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HAV Reserves Production Slots
Today, Hybrid Air Vehicles announces plans to hold three of the first year’s Airlander 10 production slots for commercial customers. The company has also unveiled a cabin demonstrator to support customer discussions in this sector.   This decision comes as demand for Airlander 10 in the commercial market has been growing rapidly, with interest coming from major cruise lines, hotel groups, and tour operators. “We recognise that there is a lot of interest in purchase or lease of Airlander aircraft in the commercial market,” comments Executive Director Tom Grundy. “Our confidential conversations with customers in other sectors are progressing well and these customers could easily absorb our early production capacity. We have taken the decision to preserve three production slots to ensure that the first commercial operators of Airlander have an early opportunity to satisfy the significant public appetite for unique luxury travel experiences.”   The increased interest in the passenger variant of Airlander 10 has followed from the launch of the concept cabin interior at Farnborough International Airshow last year. HAV has since brought a new Commercial Business Development Director, George Land, on board to address this demand and bring the first commercial Airlander 10s into the market.   “The desire for Airlander 10 in a variety of commercial tourism and hospitality markets is now clear,” notes Land. “With a limited number of aircraft available as production capacity ramps up in the first years, holding three slots ensures that the first commercial operators to order aircraft will have an opportunity to take delivery of Airlander 10 in the early 2020s.”   HAV is also supporting the development of facilities to offer leasing options and operational support for Airlander 10. These facilities open up additional ways for the commercial market to access the aircraft. “We’ve seen the growing trend toward experiential travel,” Land adds. “Airlander 10 is the perfect platform for companies to provide their customers something unique and meet their business goals.”   HAV has also today unveiled a full-scale cabin demonstrator to provide prospective aircraft purchasers or lessors the opportunity to experience the available space and interior quality offered by Airlander 10.

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