A British airship company has confirmed interest in operating trips between Malta and Gozo.

A spokesperson for Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) told Times of Malta the company has been in talks with Transport Malta about its services.   

As an eponymous hybrid aircraft, the Airlander 10 which it builds relies on buoyant lift from helium as well as engine power during take-off and landing.

The company is planning to put the Airlander 10 into commercial production, producing up to 24 aircraft a year.

Airship can carry up to 100 passengers

The Airlander will carry up to 100 passengers or a payload of 10 tonnes. The Spanish regional carrier Air Nostrum is set to be the first operator to put it into service.

“Given its unique capabilities, Airlander has the potential to bolster air services in the region. In discussions with Transport Malta, there was specific interest in Airlander’s abilities, which would help open up new routes that are not currently available or easily viable with traditional fixed-wing aircraft,” the spokesperson said.

The company says that this will enable it to create new low- and even zero-emission air services, while also running at a speed comparable to a high-speed train journey.

“Integration of Airlander into the transport network between Malta and Gozo, and Malta and Sicily, would not only vastly reduce emissions – up to 90 per cent – but would also greatly improve the passenger experience, which is currently dependent on slow ferries or aircraft that only go to large airports,” the spokesperson said.

A seaplane service bet­ween Malta and Gozo folded a few years ago because it was not commercially viable. Previous helicopter services suffered the same fate. 

No significant take-up of land required

Asked whether integrating this mode of transportation in Malta would require the take-up of any land, the spokesperson said the Airlander does not require large-scale infrastructure and can fly from “any relatively flat surface, including ice and water, without the need for conventional runways”.

“No sites have yet been identified in Malta. However, in a feasibility study for Airlander travel in the Highlands and islands regions of Scotland, it was found that modifications to existing airfields would be low cost and low impact,” she said.

In terms of passenger experience, HAV said it intends to move away from the hustle and bustle associated with traditional airports and airlines.

“Airlander will typically operate from purpose-built terminals away from crowded airports. On board, the aircraft is extremely quiet as the engines are far away from the passenger cabin,” the spokesperson said.

“There is ample space to socialise, to work, to eat and drink, and to relax quietly. Low vibration makes it a calm, more comfortable journey. The floor-to-ceiling windows mean natural light streams in and fresh air can circulate as the windows can open.”

HAV initially got off to a rocky start with the airship when in 2016 a prototype of the Airlander nosedived during a test flight in Bedfordshire and damaged part of its flight deck.

The BBC later reported that the crashlanding had come about after a failed first landing caused the mooring line to become entangled in some power lines.

In 2017, one person was hospitalised after the Airlander came loose from its mooring mast, which caused the hull to rip and deflate.

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