The Airlander on a test flight in England in 2019.
- A sister airline of British Airways struck a deal to buy 10 helium airships.
- Air Nostrum signed the deal with a British company called Hybrid Air Vehicles.
- The helium-filled airships could be transporting passengers in Spain as soon as 2026, the firm said.
Passengers in Spain could soon be boarding airships instead of jets for short-haul flights.
Air Nostrum, an airline owned by the same company as British Airways, ordered 10 helium airships to be used for regional travel.
It is the first order for the Airlander airships that will be made by Hybrid Air Vehicles, a British company part-backed by Iron Maiden frontman and qualified commercial pilot Bruce Dickinson.
Production of the 100-seat Airlander 10, which can spend up to five days aloft, is due to start in northern England later this year.
The airships could start flying passengers on routes such as Barcelona to the Mediterranean island of Mallorca as soon as 2026.
The deal is estimated to be worth more than $600 million, The Telegraph newspaper reported, citing internal sources.
The Airlander 10 has a helium-filled hull and uses combustion engines that burn jet fuel, but the company said it planned to switch to electric engines to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.
Trips on the airships would be considerably slower than on passenger jets, but be much greener.
Air Nostrum’s president, Carlos Bertomeu, said the deal was struck on the basis that the airships would “drastically reduce emissions.”
Planes have been slower to become electrified than cars. One of the reasons is that the technology to create powerful batteries needed to get planes airborne is not as developed.
A prototype of the Airlander has flown on six test flights, but it crashed in 2016 on its second outing and two people were hurt when it broke free from its moorings the following year.
However, its design has been approved by European regulators.