Lockheed Martin has announced that Straightline Aviation (SLA) has signed a letter of intent to purchase up to 12 of the company’s Hybrid Airships with a potential value of approximately $480 million. SLA is working with Hybrid Enterprises, Lockheed Martin's Hybrid Airship reseller, to finalize the purchase agreement. UK-based SLA was established specifically to act as an owner-operator of Hybrid Airships.
The news comes nine months after Lockheed and Hybrid Enterprises announced at the 2015 Paris Air Show that they would be taking orders for the craft, with a view to making initial delivieries in 2018.
With its distinctive tri-lobe shape and air cushion landing system, the Hybrid Airship is designed to affordably transport cargo and passengers to and from the most remote locations. The Hybrid Airship would require little or no fixed ground infrastructure and burn significantly less fuel compared to conventional aircraft making it an environmentally friendly solution to remote cargo delivery. Lockheed claims the Hybrid Airship would burn one tenth the fuel of a helicopter per ton.
The US firm built and flew the P-791 technology demonstrator — an unsuccessful candidate for a US Army requirement — in 2006. Since then, the company says it has completed all required FAA certification planning steps for a new class of aircraft and is ready to begin construction of the first commercial model and the completion of the FAA Type certification process.