Verily this is a cool new development.  Boeing is building super airships to double the capacity that can be airlifted around the world.  These babys will be the size of football fields (not ours but America’s) and fitted with four helicopter rotors and able to drag 40 tons of stuff.  Problem is that it has to be fairly calm weather as football field sized eggs tend to blow around a little when it gets gusty.  But I’m afraid that when it comes to engineering, big is beautiful for me.  When Melbourne was debating the Grollo tower this was regarded as very crass masculine reasoning which could all be traced back to some kind of phallic preoccupation.  Could be right for all I know, but I’d still like to see one of these things. 

This entry was posted in Science, Space. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to ShyHooks

  1. JC says:

    lets hope they don’t fill’em up with hydrogen this time round.

  2. Cameron says:

    My first thought when I saw that top picture was of the Dr Who “Cybermen” episodes with all of the zeppelins. *fear*

  3. NPOV says:

    I have to say, some peak oiler types have been predicting the return of airships and sails for some time. Perhaps ironically there’s even talk of using them to haul heavy equipment to the Athabasca tar sands area.

  4. Niall says:

    Sadly, the era of the airship is long past. They’re good for little else than advertising

  5. Don Arthur says:

    If at first you don’t succeed …

  6. derrida derider says:

    Niall, its true they’ll never be more than a niche product but the ability to lift very large and heavy objects into remote areas is potentially a very profitable niche. I reckon it’ll work.

    Hydrogen balloons are not much more dangerous than helium ones, and its a helluva lot cheaper in a really big one. F’rinstance, contrary to myth the
    Hindenburg disaster had little to do with the hydrogen in it – it was the very flammable and electrostatic sealant they used that caused the problem.

  7. Niall says:

    I’m a fan of the Mythbusters as well, D ;)

  8. braddles says:

    Hasn’t anybody asked what happens when the airship puts that huge load down? Exit one airship through the top of the atmosphere.

    BTW, “size of a football field” sounds impressive, but translated it means “much smaller than any of the airships of the 1930s”.

    dd is correct about the dangers of hydrogen. It is not a major factor. What destroys airships (sooner or later, mostly sooner) is what destroyed the German prototype a few years ago and nearly every other big airship ever built – bad weather.

  9. Hmm – puts load down, does not release until it’s done something internally – do Can these things compress the helium inside to reduce lift?

  10. My next guess is that the airship is mainly there to provide a platform which allows four helicopters – or helicopter engines and rotors – to be attached to one another by a huge vehicle which has only limited lift itself. So when the payload is put down, they stop pedalling quite so hard.

  11. Patrick says:

    When Melbourne was debating the Grollo tower this was regarded as very crass masculine reasoning which could all be traced back to some kind of phallic preoccupation.

    That was patently nonsense. Things are often long and thin because that is the way they are best made. They aren’t ‘phallic’ in any meaningful way as a result. Imagine an airplane or missile or tall building which did not vaguely resemble a cylindrical object longer than it is thick.

  12. wilful says:

    the grollo tower was still ugliness personified, and a very poor potential use of the site proposed. Glad it went nowhere.

    Heavy lifting airships may be good for forestry, as the second photo indicates, if affordable. Roads are the biggest environmental problem, and this would be a no impact solution.

  13. derrida derider says:

    It’s pretty easy – when you put the load down, you just put the helicopter engines into reverse. You’d only jettison expensive gas if an engine broke down, and you don’t have to waste load capacity carrying ballast.

    As for vulnerability to bad weather, that’s true. But for this sort of freight you can simply wait until the weather forecast is right (don’t forget forecasts are far better than in the airship’s heyday). Also, bluntly, one-off freight lifts can live with a lot more risk than scheduled passenger services. If I was a crew member I’d be packing a parachute for heights and a rappelling line for landings!

  14. The Grollo Tower was designed by Harry Seidler (from memory) and while he has come up with the odd dud, it was IMHO a nice looking building. And there’s no accounting for scale. So long as it’s not ugly and I don’t think it was, something that large has a grandeur all its own. I mean we don’t admire the pyramids because of their shape. Their size awes us and it’s in that context that we perceive their beauty.

  15. DD,

    Don’t you need to moor the airship, and doesn’t that create some chances of bad weather doing nasty things? Can you keep them safe through bad weather on their moorings?

  16. derrida derider says:

    You generally keep them in a giant hangar. Tied to a mooring tower they’re OK in all but extreme conditions anyway, but it does mean you can’t leave them sitting out a storm at a remote site with no such facilities.

    Actually I’m surprised that they want only 40 tonnes – maybe Boeing wants to crawl before they walk. There’s a latent market for things too big (>100 tons) to move in one piece by normal road – eg large turbine shafts. That was certainly the thinking behind Cargolifter AG’s undercapitalised efforts (they went broke after their first prototype crashed in 2002). Cargolifter actually bought and used the Hindenburg’s hangar.

  17. David Rubie says:

    Can I add just how incredibly disrespectful it is to talk about Skyhooks and helicopters like that? Shirley is whirling in his grave.

  18. Speedicut says:

    I have no idea if this will ever make it off the drawing board but the lines are lovely.

  19. NPOV says:

    All that’s missing from that picture is a bowl of petunias.

  20. BTW Speedicut, how is Rattle these days? Flashman seems to have made good, eh?

  21. Speedicut says:

    Aye, Mr Reynolds, the Flash cove gets all the press. As for Rattle, IIRC, he and Groove were doing some “consulting work” with the Las Vegas boxing commission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.