Around 1,800 jobs are to be created in South Yorkshire by building 10 new environmentally friendly airships.
Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), a Bedford-based small business, announced on Wednesday that it had signed a deal to supply a Spanish airline with 10 of its 100-passenger helium-filled Airlander 10 airships.
The plane, which the company says will have less than a tenth of CO2 per jet passenger, will be built in a new green aerospace manufacturing cluster in South Yorkshire.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said the entry into service of the Airlander showed the UK was at the forefront of ‘revolutionary’ greener aircraft technology.
“Hybrid aircraft could play an important role in the transition to cleaner forms of aviation, and it’s wonderful to see the UK at the forefront of technology development,” he said.
“This agreement strengthens the possibility of the revolutionary Airlander 10 aircraft, made and designed in the UK, to fly in the skies of Spain. It is further proof of the way UK companies are embracing new technologies to drive growth and supporting high-skilled UK jobs.
The aircraft, which according to HAV will have a CO2 footprint per passenger of around 4.5kg compared to around 53kg on a jet plane, are expected to take flight with Spanish carrier Air Nostrum in 2026.
Carlos Bertomeu, President of Air Nostrum, said: “The Airlander 10 will significantly reduce emissions and that is why we have entered into this agreement with HAV. Sustainability, which is good news for everyone, is already a non-negotiable fact in day-to-day commercial aviation operations.
The airline, which currently operates flights for Iberia, did not specify on which routes it plans to operate the Airlander. HAV has previously said it plans to fly from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca in four and a half hours.
HAV, which has in the past attracted funding from Peter Hambro, founder of Russia’s Petropavlovsk gold mine, and Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, said its plane was “ideally suited for intercity mobility applications like Liverpool to Belfast and Seattle to Vancouver, which Airlander can serve with a tiny fraction of the emissions of current airline options”.
Tom Grundy, Managing Director of HAV, said: “Airlander is designed to deliver a brighter future for sustainable aviation services, enable new transportation networks and provide rapid growth options for our customers. Our partnership with Air Nostrum Group, as the launch airline for Airlander 10, paves the way to that future.
The craft was originally designed as a surveillance vehicle for intelligence missions in Afghanistan. HAV says independent estimates put the value of the airship market at $50bn (£41bn) over the next 20 years. It aims to sell 265 of its Airlander planes during this period.
The £25million Airlander 10 prototype made six test flights, some of which ended badly. It crashed in 2016 on its second test flight, after a successful 30-minute maiden voyage. HAV tweeted at the time: “Airlander sustained damage on landing during today’s flight. No damage was sustained in flight or as a result of a telegraph pole as noted.