A giant ship sailing in the sky is the fantasy of many pirates, and in the 1930s, we almost achieved something similar. Almost. When the world was introduced to the Hindenburg in 1936, it was the largest thing to take to the skies. Even today, it is still the biggest thing humanity has managed to fly in the sky. But, everything changed on May 6, 1937, when a camera captured one of the greatest disasters in airship history.
The disaster shocked people worldwide, and many people were too scared to ever consider riding one. But why did we make that ship in the first place?
The goal of airships was to provide a more enjoyable and faster alternative to a cruise ship while still being luxurious. The creators of the Hindenburg made their hulking invention twice as fast as a cruise ship of the time, with a top speed of around 76mph. The luxury aspect was also captured well as the ship had a piano lounge, dining area, recreational area, and private sleeping cabins. All while providing the passengers great views of the Ocen from the sky.
However, one may try with all their might, but physics will ultimately pull you down. And, that was the main problem.
The Hindenburg was no doubt one of the most incredible things we had created. But, its notable feature was also its fatal flaw. Because the ship was so large, almost all of it needed to be filled with helium or hydrogen to keep it afloat. This flaw meant that the passenger area was quite cramped. Now, I am not saying that it was a modern economy seat in an airplane level cramped. Instead, the problem was that the airship couldn’t hold a candle to cruise ships’ capacity due to physical laws.
For example, even after being a giant, the Hindenburg could only carry a maximum of 124 people, 52 of which were the crew members. This was in stark contrast to the capacity of an ocean liner from that era which could comfortably carry 2,000 passengers in addition to 1,000 crew members. Additionally, the facilities inside the airship were of a considerably lower standard since everything had to be light. In comparison, the ocean liners had multiple luxe suites that came with a nice room, a comfortable bed, and a private bathroom.
Add to that the fact that a ride in the airship was significantly more expensive when compared to an airplane or an ocean liner, and it becomes clear why airships fell out of fashion. Therefore, it is quite possible that even without the highly publicized disaster, the airship would have died out.
Around the 2010s, this concept was revived by a British company known as Hybrid Air Vehicles. They had developed a modern airship concept under a US military research program. During that time, the Pentagon was searching for alternative ways to support the troops in Afghanistan effectively. However, the project didn’t last for long and got terminated in 2013. Now, without a contractor for the excellent tech they had developed, HAV had to look for alternative uses for their tech.
After this decision, they bounced around for a few years and eventually settled on the luxury market. Then, they unveiled the Airlander 10 to the world, and the rich people in the world went crazy. For the first time in decades, they saw the prospect of something truly unique.
The Modern Spin
Like everything in the modern era, the solution to make a niche thing viable is by giving it a luxury makeover and making it exclusive. Both of which were excellently done by HAV. The Airlander is being touted to be orders of magnitude safer than its predecessors, and it also makes fewer compromises to achieve its goal. Of course, it is nowhere close to the sheer capacity offered by an ocean liner but what it is is a novel experience like no other.
The advantage of an airship is that it is very efficient compared to an airliner as it can operate with just a fraction of the energy. While this efficiency may come at the cost of speed, the speed is irrelevant here as the modern airship’s aim isn’t being a dutiful passenger carrier. The goal is to let the wealthy people experience a new kind of air travel, which benefits from the slow speed.
“We can go down to 300 feet, even 100 feet if needed, as slow as a bike, to offer our passengers a glimpse of those polar habitats to our passengers,” says Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck. He is the founder of the startup OceanSky Cruises, and he plans to be among the first to start this revolution.
A Luxurious Cruise Amidst the Clouds.
The Airlander 10 is OceanSky’s ship of choice. It will carry up to 16 passengers, and the crew will be comprised of seven members, including a chef. The ship will have an infinity lounge, an area to hang out and enjoy the view, dining areas, and eight spacious double cabins to serve as bedrooms.
Another exclusive feature of this airship would be its ability to land on any surface that is large and flat enough to accommodate it. This means that the passengers will be able to land in areas untouched by planes and relish in the moment’s exclusivity.
The folks at OceanSky are considering multiple regions around the Arctic archipelago as destinations for their would-be customers. The entire trip will most likely be 36 hours long, out of which 6 hours will be spent at the North People. People aboard the ship will be allowed to descend here and experience the environment.
OceanSky plans to take passengers on a trip to the North Pole and back for a modest $232,845. This price tag may come as a surprise for some, but you’ll be even more surprised to learn the fact that it is the cost of a single two-person cabin.
While the price tag is incredibly prohibitive for ordinary people like me now, The company expects to have more than 100 ships in its arsenal within the first decade, hopefully making it affordable enough to be the first choice for many aspiring sky-pirates.
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