Tourism flights could take off for Bedford’s Airlander

The firm behind Airlander has pledged it will return to the skies
The firm behind Airlander has pledged it will return to the skies

Wealthy tourists could be paying a six figure sum to jump aboard Cardington’s Airlander for the luxury holiday of a lifetime.

The developers of the giant airship have done a deal with travel company Henry Cookson Adventures to trial the world’s longest aircraft for passenger travel.

The test flight is planned for next year and if successful there could be regular tourism flights to places such as the North Pole, Bolivian Salt Pans and Namib Desert.

“We’re really looking forward to it,” said a spokesman for Henry Cookson Adventures.

“The Airlander’s advantage is that it can stay airborne for days and can land in places that are inaccessible to a normal aeroplane. The views from it would be incredible and it would be the holiday of a lifetime for people,” she added.

The current Airlander 10 could carry up to 19 passengers in “super luxury” cabins or around 60 in a less roomy configuration.

But Henry Cookson say they would be keen to see developers Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd go bigger and better with an Airlander 50 and even an Airlander 200.

The HAV crew financed the Airlander’s initial development through crowdfunding. This month, together with design consultancy Design Q, they were awarded a £60,000 grant towards getting the luxury cabin project off the ground.

Design Q has promised an interior that “will be unlike anything seen before.”

Airlander chief test pilot Dave Burns said: “I am really excited about the possibility of taking the first passengers on board. I can imagine the awe and excitement of seeing the world in luxury, with amazing views, quietly and whole respecting the environment.”

But HAV were not so forthcoming about one immediate problem – finding a new home for the massive aircraft.

They announced in September they were planning to leave Cardington’s Hangar 1 by the end of the year, and the film company next door will take up the vacant space.

The T&C asked this week if a new site had been found. An HAV spokesman replied: “You can ask… but we’re not releasing that information at present. The Airlander will be on Cardington Airfield for a while yet.  The office staff are moving in late November.”