It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
Airships show great promise for certain tasks—such as long-term surveillance or heavy lifting, but keep on being pipped at the post by some other technology. For instance, drones look like grabbing the within-the-atmosphere surveillance market (with satellites having a near monopoly of space).
Heavy lifting is another matter. You can move big heavy things around on roads up to a point—but only at great inconvenience to conventional road users. Besides, you need roads—and reasonably good ones at that. Aircraft can do the job—but only at enormous cost (both to buy and to operate), and you still need long runways at either end.
Hybrid airships can lift from, and delivery to, just about anywhere—without the need for much supporting infrastructure. With modification, they can even land on water.
All of this represents healthy technological competition, of course, but it frustrates the hell out of me because I love airships and have the feeling that—if we would give them enough backing—they would live up to their promise. True, they are large and slow—but they have tremendous endurance, can lift enormous loads, and are much less expensive to purchase and operate than jet aircraft of comparable lifting performance. And they pollute significantly less and are quieter.
They are green—and they define cool.
The U.S. Army had an airship program, but abandoned it after one flight—and not for technical reasons. Maddening! Then again, the Army has a long history of abandoning perfectly good ideas to the point where you would wonder why they are not running around with clubs.
The good news is that the UK’s Hybrid Air Vehicles have bought the Army’s vehicle at scrap value and plan to have it flying again by the year’s end. They plan to use it for demonstrations, and eventually to build a heavy-life aircraft which will carry 50 tons—and 60-70 tons in the colder Canadian North.
The planned Airlander 50 is 390 ft. long, with a 3.64-million-cu.-ft. envelope (filled with inert helium), cruise speed of 105 kt., range of 2,000 nm., flight endurance of four days with two pilots and a payload capacity of up to 132,300 lb. (60 metric tons).
An airship is lighter than air. A hybrid airship is not. It gets part of its lift from its shape in the same aerodynamic way as a wing. This makes it more easy to maneuver in the air—and much easier to land.
I’m rooting for it.
WHAT MY READERS THINK
Dear Mr. O' Reilly:
First of all I would just like to congratulate you on your wonderful novel that is ranked on the top of my list of all-time favorite books. It kept me intrigued until the end and made me buy the trilogy of Hugo Fitzduane. Secondly, I was interested to know if your novel would ever see the light of day on
the big screen since I believe it would do extraordinary well and will be a very interesting and suspenseful movie to see. Is there any chance of that happening or any plans started for the big screen?
Well thank you very much for your great work and hope to see some wonderful things from you in the
Fernando Acuna Jr.