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f you like the idea of cruising on a ship in laid-back luxury, but prefer the speed and convenience of air travel, there may soon be a solution. Drawing their inspiration from the airships of yesteryear, a new generation of airship-like vehicles could soon be making their way across our skies.
In a hangar outside Tustin in California, engineers are preparing one of the most radical designs for testing. The Aeroscraft, as it is known, is the brainchild of Igor Pasternak and has been made possible by advances in materials and computer control systems.
“We are resurrecting [the airship] with new composite fabric structures, that are stronger, lighter, more versatile” says Fred Edworthy, of Aeros, the company building the lighter-than-air vehicle.
Perhaps more importantly, current cargo aircraft can meet or exceed all the capabilities of any realistic airship-based cargo system. The most popular large cargo aircraft is the 747 freighter, which can carry upwards of 112 metric tons of cargo payload. The upcoming Airbus A380-800 Freighter will carry as much as 140 metric tons of cargo. The Antanov An-124 can carry a payload of 150 metric tons and the AN-225 can carry a payload of as much as 250 metric tons.
By comparison, the Hindenburg, the largest airship ever flown, had a cargo capacity of a mere 19 metric tons. A modern airship of the same size might be capable of lifting a bit more due to lighter materials. Using a combination of buoyancy and aerodynamic lift a hybrid airship might be able to lift even more still but still would have a very hard time competing with heavier than air aircraft and still remaining a manageable and realistic size