Speaking of blimp hangars…

Hangar 2 at Moffett Field has a little something that has been hidden inside that rolled out yesterday…

Photo LTA Research

As dawn breaks over Silicon Valley, the world is getting its first look at Pathfinder 1, a prototype electric airship that its maker LTA Research hopes will kickstart a new era in climate-friendly air travel, and accelerate the humanitarian work of its funder, Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

The airship — its snow-white steampunk profile visible from the busy 101 highway — has taken drone technology such as fly-by-wire controls, electric motors and lidar sensing, and supersized them to something longer than three Boeing 737s, potentially able to carry tons of cargo over many hundreds of miles.

“It’s been 10 years of blood, sweat and tears,” LTA CEO Alan Weston told TechCrunch on the eve of the unveiling. “Now we must show that this can reliably fly in real-world conditions. And we’re going to do that.”

Full article, HERE from Tech Crunch.

So the hangars ‘may’ come full circle…

Considerably larger than the GoodYear blimps, I’m really not sure what their applicability is going to be in the real world, but they would have a LONG loiter time…


Speaking of blimp hangars… — 28 Comments

  1. My reading suggests that you need some pretty specialized equipment to dock them at the destination. Winches, cradles, etc, or risk losing them to wind. No idea if that is accurate but it seems that some infrastructure will be needed. Cool idea if it works. I wonder if it has built in solar panels and what the weight/cargo tradeoff would be if it did.

    Also, just for the record, blimp =/= to Zeppelin (technically “rigid airship”)

    • Yes, you need special ground handling equipment.

      Winches, weighted sleds, lots of personnel.

      And you’ll still lose some to freak ground weather.

      They work fine in good weather.

  2. “…accelerate the humanitarian work…”

    Good luck finding a source of hydrogen to power the fuel cells in most third world/war-torn countries most in need of humanitarian aid. Also generating hydrogen, whether by electrolysis or by hydro-carbon cracking, is hardly “carbon neutral.”

  3. I’d like to see some real world numbers on performance and range.
    While airships are less power hungry than fixed wings, less is still a bunch.
    And as mentioned above, weather is a big issue and so is ground support for airships – there are reasons we don’t use them much anymore.
    I wonder if the real goal of the project is to get into Brin’s pockets?

  4. I’m with McChuck. I like the idea of blimps, but history says weather is their enemy. I know we have better prediction than they did in the 30s and weather radar has been a godsend to aviation generally. But can blimps outrun weather? especially fast-moving storm cells?

  5. Quote: accelerate the humanitarian work of its funder, EndQuote.

    The only human he’s concerned with is himself.

    Oh, and the blimp will be a failure, if it is indeed for what they are claiming it’s for. Which it probably isn’t. Because the main funder is evil.

  6. The major factor is cost, as measured on good old American long green. It’s the construction cost of whatever the blimp competes with, the operating cost, and the time it takes to recoup your construction cost.

    I suppose that if you wanted a scenic flight someplace and were willing to travel at fifty miles an hour, which means you’d get a nice view, then what’s the price of a ticket? In a ten hour day you’d travel five hundred miles, which isn’t all that much compared to a commercial flight, although it would likely be a lot more comfortable.

    What kind of stuck out in my mind was the propulsion. Diesel / electric, probably measured in gallons per hour.

  7. Still a pipe dream.

    Yes, great at one time. When conventional craft didn’t have loiter time, lift ability, room for comfort.

    But today? Radar satellites and recon planes do the work of mobile platforms. Helicopters can lift as much as a regular blimp (though aerostats – a freaky marriage of helos and blimps are still a possibility) and all are more maneuverable and less expensive and less susceptible to weather issues.

    But it seems every 10 years or so somebody gets financing for a blimp or a rigid airship or a hybrid rigid/non-rigid frankenblimp. Which goes… nowhere.

  8. All- Excellent points, and yes, the amount of ground handling equipment AND bodies needed do limit it. And weather is literally a killer for those things!

  9. The Goodyear blimp stayed near Houston for years. It was hired for local events, and would make trips to other areas when hired. From what I know, it was a money-pit without any future method of creating enough revenue to reach a profit. Goodyear moved it to Ohio, the hanger was removed, and a large part of the scenery near Spring, Texas disappeared.

    Occasionally, during the trips out of town, I’d observe the blimp as it travelled in only the best of weather. To me, it was a large billboard, and not much more. I tried once to take a flight, but arrived too late for the last flight of the day.

    • TINS. There I was in the pattern at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport and I was told, “Circle over the [checkpoint]. Traffic landing blimp.” It had the right of way.

      The look on the professor’s face when I explained that I was very late to class because “I got behind Shamu” was priceless. Then I got to explain the aviation rules of “who goes first if no one is on fire.” (The least maneuverable has the right of way.)

      • “who goes first if no one is on fire.”

        I drive past this big burned spot on Hwy 12/18 near the Wisconsin capitol that tests that rule.

        I pulled over once to watch the Goodyear blimp ever…so…slowly pass overhead. It was boring. And not on fire.

  10. If they are going to do regular passenger flights they will need type certification and an airworthiness certificate. Where do they get them? The Goodyear blimps get theirs from the FAA because they are essentially the same as the WW II Navy blimps built by Goodyear Aerospace. Don’t know how this one will do it.

    Did the airship hanger at Moffett that NASA ripped the skin off of every get new clothes?

  11. Um…OK. Kinda been there, done that. If they can work out the kinks then good for them. Until then I’ll just get all excited when I see the Goodyear blimp.

    • The new units are still called blimps but they are semi-rigid and a bit bigger too. No more individual names, they are Wingfoot-1, -2, and -3… Goodyear still has a base down near Torrance, CA I used to drive by.

  12. Hey Old NFO,

    I always wondered if a modern dirigible would be a viable option, not everyone wants to get there the fastest, some people would like to take the scenic route. I keep wondering if a modern “Hindenburg” for transatlantic routes or flying cross country.

  13. There’s a reason there are “bumps” when you fly through an airmass.
    Some of that air is moving in one direction. Some of it is moving in another direction. Bigger aircraft are impacted more by the different directions that air is moving.
    Riding in an airplane, with solid wings, will be scarier that riding in that same “liquid” in a helicopter because the rotor wing is flexible.
    These damned airships scare me to death.

    • Most rotary wings have very limited strength compared to most aircraft structures.
      I’m thinking that one of the certs for them should be enough speed, at full load, to outrun any weather they might encounter.

  14. The only valid use for them is to put them over the southern border with a case of ammunition and a dozen snipers (and the occasional minigun for mass attempts), and use them to pick off border crossers; or else same idea, but this time over the Gulf and Pac Ocean, using Hellfires for drug smuggling boats and semi-submersibles.
    In both cases, with ROE that specified “no prisoners, no survivors”.

    The line at the airship recruiting depots would be miles long.

    And even then, weather-limited.

    When almost nobody could fly, blimps and dirigibles made sense.

    When anyone can, and tickets can be had for even a couple hours’ labor at minimum wage, they’re pointless curiosities, and the slow speed becomes long loiter, which is their only real selling point.

    That’s why the only real use the military found for them was near-shore ASW patrols, at which they excelled.

    Which mission, I suspect, understandably warms your heart.

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