Lockheed’s Airships On Track For 2018 Deployment

Lockheed Martin announced June 16 that it would be partnering with Atlanta, Georgia-based Hybrid Enterprises LLC to sell its Hybrid Airship, which, Lockheed says, is still on track for a 2018 delivery.

Speaking from the Paris air show, Lockheed’s announcement said that Hybrid Enterprises would serve as the sole reseller of the aircraft.

The Hybrid Airship uses what Lockheed refers to as an “air cushion landing system,”a system of hovercraft-like pads that allow the airship to takeoff and land from any type of terrain, including over water. The air cushions can also grab the ground like a suction cup, making ties and ropes unnecessary.

Heather Kelso, a spokeswoman from Lockheed Martin, said in a June 16 email that she would not name any potential customers. But, she said, “our detailed studies show that the initial vehicle has the highest value in markets and locations that have very little transportation infrastructure.”

Potential customers might include those looking to carry cargo to and from remote oil and gas operations, she added.

According to Reuters, Hybrid Enterprises’ Chief Executive Rob Binns also declined to name future buyers. However, he did say that Lockheed usually only enters billion-dollar markets.

Other aircraft manufacturers are interested in building aircraft that can provide transport for the oil and gas industry. In March, Bristow, a Huston, Texas-based rotorcraft transport company, announced that it would be partnering with the Italian company AgustaWestland to develop the AW609 tiltrotor aircraft with the intent of flying to offshore drilling rigs.

In November, Lockheed projected the first deliveries of their Hybrid Airship by 2018, and it still holds this date. Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said that the project is on track to get the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration soon.

“We have completed all required FAA certification planning steps for a new class of aircraft and are ready to begin construction of the first commercial model and the completion of the FAA Type certification process,” Carvalho said. 

Carvalho said that the Hybrid Airship represents the fruits of over 20 years of research and development. The project is manly based out of Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works department. 

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