The idea of using giant airships to deliver workers and supplies to Alberta's oilsands and northern Canada's mining industries is a step closer to reality today.
Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin announced on Tuesday it had received a letter-of-intent to sell 12 hybrid airships, valued at $480 million, to Straightline Aviation (SLA), headquartered in the United Kingdom. SLA is working with Hybrid Enterprises, Lockheed Martin's Hybrid Airship reseller, to finalize the purchase agreement. According to CTV News, Straightline expects to start receiving the hybrid airships in 2018, with the final ones set for delivery in 2021. The giant airships will be over 300 feet long, with an airspeed of about 110 kilometers an hour (68 mph) and a cargo capacity of 20 tons. CBC News Canada is reporting the hybrid airships will be deployed in Canada's north, Alaska, southeast Asis and the Middle East. The huge airships will provide a much needed boost to local economies while leaving a very small carbon footprint. "We are delighted to be first in line with this magnificent aircraft that is going to dramatically change the way cargo is moved around the world," Mike Kendrick, SLA co-founder and chief executive officer was quoted as saying by Yahoo Finance. "The clear-cut economic and environmental advantages of these Hybrids are attracting vast amounts of attention from a wide range of potential end users." The big zeppelins have long been thought to be the best way to cut the costs associated with moving large pieces of machinery to the far north where no roads exist. "People are waiting for this because they need the economies that it brings and are also happy that the carbon footprint is reduced," Kendrick said. Rob Binns, the chief executive officer of Hybrid Enterprises says the downturn in Canada's oil sector that has resulted in commodity prices dropping through the floor and the loss of thousands of jobs isn't expected to hurt business. He says they have seen almost the opposite effect. He points out that "people in the extraction industry have cut their costs, they've cut their head count, and they've eliminated projects that are cash flow negative." Binns says the airships can be fitted to deliver diesel fuel, meaning ice roads aren't needed. There is no need to build bridges, because the airships can land right on the ice. "This is a way to service those mines all year round. With the airships we can deliver to the mines 340 days a year."
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|er 10, Oilsands, straightline aviation, Lockheed martin, alberta and canadian north|