By Tom Grundy

This article was originally shared on LinkedIn Pulse, you can join the conversation over on LinkedIn here.

In our work at Hybrid Air Vehicles, we’re often asked about airspeed. Isn’t Airlander much slower than an aeroplane? Haven’t we shown over the years that people will pay to travel fast?

We think a little differently about that.

Granted, Airlander’s top speed of 130km per hour is slow compared to an aeroplane, but we fulfil many journeys by car at much less than that speed. Airlander is similar to many rail networks, not much slower than a helicopter and far faster than taking a ferry. We take those other modes of transport all the time because they are the most convenient, the most pleasant, the most affordable or the least-environmentally damaging. We don’t fly on aeroplanes everywhere because, for many journeys, it just doesn’t make economical or practical sense to move that fast.

Consider travelling from the city centre of Stockholm to the city centre of Oslo. You could take an aeroplane; your experience would encompass travelling to the airport, check-in, security, lounge, gate, boarding, taxiing, and the flight itself. The same process reversed awaits you at your destination. You have spent maybe 40 airborne minutes in your seat, on a journey that took just under four hours.

By car, you’ll have your own space, and just one seat for the whole journey. You’ll be doing nothing but driving, and – without hitting bad traffic – you’ll be in that seat for over six hours. Add breaks and parking in a city centre, and you might make it in seven. In that same seven hours you could instead combine a coach journey and a train journey to reach your destination.

Now consider Airlander. Its short take-off and landing capability and its ability to operate on water means your journey starts near the city centre. You board through a ferry-like facility, which means no searching for the gate. Onboard, large windows and a wide, rectangular cabin allows space and light for each passenger; Airlander’s 90 seats are distributed in more space than that provided for 150 passengers on a typical short-haul aeroplane. The cabin is quiet, unpressurised and connected to services allowing you to work or relax onboard. The flight is low, much lower than aeroplane flight, allowing clear views to each horizon and the landscape passing below.

Your arrival is about two and a half hours after your counterpart on the aeroplane but it’s earlier than those who took the car, coach or train.

And your carbon footprint? Less than 10% that of the aeroplane passenger. Less than 10% of the car driver – even assuming a passenger was present to share the emissions of the vehicle. In fact, it’s just a bit lower than taking the coach and the train.

Time is really against us and speed really is important in bringing attractive, low-carbon transport options into service to protect our environment. An Airlander city connector is possible quickly, because we’ve spent over a decade refining the technology to do it. It can be in service in 2025. It will be an extraordinary way to travel.

It’s one of the many reasons that we are so excited to be Rethinking the Skies.

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