Spanish airline Air Nostrum is taking a page from aviation’s past to push for a less carbon-intensive future: airships.
The regional airline, one of Europe’s largest, has reserved a fleet of 10 hybrid airships from UK company Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the company announced, with operations slated to begin in 2026.
This will radically increase the number of airships in operation — today, there are estimated to be just 25 blimps left in the world (and far fewer rigid airships).
Initially announced in 2016, the Airlander 10 is a 100-passenger helium airship. The base model will use four diesel engines and reduce air travel emissions by 75%, HAV says. The hybrid models, powered by electricity, can cut flight emissions by 90% — although the electric engines are not expected to be completed until at least 2025.
HAV plans to begin manufacturing the airships this year in Yorkshire, England.
“The Airlander 10 will drastically reduce emissions and for that reason we have made this agreement with HAV,” Air Nostrum president Carlos Bertomeu said in a statement. “Sustainability, which is good news for everyone, is already a non-negotiable fact in the daily operations of commercial aviation.”
HAV says the Airlander 10 has a 4,000 nautical mile max range, can stay flying for five days, and can cruise as high as 20,000 feet. And they do mean cruise; the airship will be pushing the needle at just 80 mph, CNN reported.
In addition to its ecological benefits, the airships can also operate without traditional airport infrastructure, using pneumatic skids to land and takeoff from multiple surfaces, including waterfronts, fields, and underutilized airports, HAV told CNN.
In addition to their ecological benefits, the airships can also operate without traditional airport infrastructure, and are scheduled to begin flying regional routes over Spain in 2026.
Air Nostrum’s is the first commercial order for the airships, Aerotime Hub reported, making the airline HAV’s launch customer. Air Nostrum intends to use them to fly regional routes within Spain. Other potential short-jaunt airship routes could include Seattle to Vancouver and Oslo to Stockholm, CNN reported.
“As countries like France, Denmark, Norway, Spain and the UK begin to put in place ambitious mandates for the decarbonisation of domestic and short haul flight, Hybrid Air Vehicles and Air Nostrum Group are demonstrating how we can get there – and get there soon,” said Tom Grundy, CEO of HAV.
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