Military Getting Ready To Bring Back The Airship - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Military Getting Ready To Bring Back The Airship

Posted: Updated:

TUSTIN, Calif. (AP) - The massive blimp-like aircraft flies but just barely, hovering only a dozen feet off a military hangar floor during flight testing south of Los Angeles.

Still, the fact that the hulking Aeroscraft could fly for just a few minutes represents a step forward in aviation, according to the engineers who developed it. The Department of Defense and NASA have invested $35 million in the prototype because of its potential to one day carry more cargo than any other aircraft to disaster zones and forward military bases.

"I realized that I put a little dot in the line of aviation history. A little dot for something that has never been demonstrated before, now it's feasible," said flight control engineer Munir Jojo-Verge.

The airship is undergoing testing this month at Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, and must go through several more rounds of flight testing before it could be used in a disaster zone or anywhere else. The first major flight test took place Jan. 3.

The biggest challenge for engineers is making sure the airship will be able to withstand high winds and other extreme weather conditions, Jojo-Verge said.

Worldwide Aeros, the company that developed the aircraft, said it also must secure more funding for the next round of flight testing, but is hopeful the Defense Department and others will step in again as investors.

The company says the cargo airship's potential to carry more cargo more efficiently than ever before would provide the U.S. military with an advantage on the battlefield and greater capacity to save more lives during natural disasters.

The lighter-than-air vehicle is not a blimp or a zeppelin because it has a rigid structure made out of ultra-light carbon fiber and aluminum underneath its high-tech Mylar skin. Inside, balloons hold the helium that gives the vehicle lift. Unlike hydrogen, the gas used in the Hindenburg airship that crashed in 1937, helium is not flammable.

The airship functions like a submarine, releasing air to rise and taking in air to descend, said Aeros mechanical engineer Tim Kenny. It can take off vertically, like a helicopter, then change its buoyancy to become heavier than air for landing and unloading.

"It allows the vehicle to set down on the ground. And then when we want to become lighter than air, we release that air and then the vehicle floats and we can allow it to take off," Kenny said.

The project has set abuzz the old hangars at the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. The structures were built to hold blimps during World War II. Now workers zip around in cherry-pickers, and the airship's silvery surface shines against the warm tones of the aging wood of the walls.

"You could take this vehicle and go to destinations that have been destroyed, where there's no ports, no runways, stuff like that. This vehicle could go in there, offload the cargo even if there's no infrastructure, no landing site for it to land on, this vehicle can unload its whole payload," said Kenny.

Next, Aeros wants to build a full-size 450-foot-long vehicle that can carry 66 tons of payload.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Prosecutor: No criminal liability in officer involved shooting

    Prosecutor: No criminal liability in officer involved shooting

    Friday, August 1 2014 1:02 PM EDT2014-08-01 17:02:00 GMT
    UPDATE:The Spokane County Prosecutors Office has reviewed the case of the Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) incident on February 11, 2014 involving Spokane County deputies and Jed Zillmer. The incident occurred in the intersection of Indiana and Sullivan in Spokane Valley.
    >>
    UPDATE:The Spokane County Prosecutors Office has reviewed the case of the Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) incident on February 11, 2014 involving Spokane County deputies and Jed Zillmer. The incident occurred in the intersection of Indiana and Sullivan in Spokane Valley.
    >>
  • Otter attacks swimmers in Washington river

    Otter attacks swimmers in Washington river

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:53 AM EDT2014-08-01 15:53:58 GMT
    MACHIAS, Wash. (AP) - A river otter attacked an 8-year-old boy and his grandmother as they were swimming in the Pilchuck River at a park in the Snohomish County town of Machias. The boy's mother, Tabitha Moser, told KING that she saw the 4-foot otter attack her son Thursday morning at Lake Connor Park. She says her mother saved him.>>
    MACHIAS, Wash. (AP) - A river otter attacked an 8-year-old boy and his grandmother as they were swimming in the Pilchuck River at a park in the Snohomish County town of Machias. The boy's mother, Tabitha Moser, told KING that she saw the 4-foot otter attack her son Thursday morning at Lake Connor Park. She says her mother saved him.
    >>
  • FIRST ON KHQ.COM: hikers find body in Spokane Valley; homicide investigation begins

    FIRST ON KHQ.COM: hikers find body in Spokane Valley; homicide investigation begins

    Friday, August 1 2014 1:50 PM EDT2014-08-01 17:50:42 GMT
    SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash.- On Thursday night major crimes detectives with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office began investigating the discovery of a body in Spokane Valley.The body was found earlier in the evening by a couple walking in a wooded area near Parkside At Mirabeau Apartments.>>
    SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash.- On Thursday night major crimes detectives with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office began investigating the discovery of a body in Spokane Valley.The body was found earlier in the evening by a couple walking in a wooded area near Parkside At Mirabeau Apartments.>>