Airships

Concept: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin LMH1 Hybrid Aircraft

Airships are free-flying buoyant aircraft that can be propelled and steered. They get all or most of their lift from bags filled with gases that are lighter than air – helium or hydrogen.

On this page, we look at these topics related to airships:

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Need

There is much interest in airships as a way to freight material to remote parts of northern Canada and reduce our reliance on winter roads

Winter roads

Wikipedia Creative CommonsMany northern and remote Manitoba communities depend upon winter roads for vital supplies. Since there is no permanent road into these communities, the winter road is the only way for them to receive heavy supplies like building materials, fuel, and food.

A winter road is built over land on compacted snow, frozen tundra, bare ground, or on floating ice over lakes and streams. These roads have to rebuilt each year after freeze-up. Usually, this means the roads are not serviceable until late February and often need to close by sometime in March.

Because of global warming, the average length of time that these roads remain in service has been decreasing. See our page on winter roads elsewhere on this website.

Churchill rail line

Photo credit: OMNITRAX

There is no road to Manitoba’s port of Churchill on Hudson’s Bay. But, they have been connected to the south by a rail line. In May 2017, severe flooding washed out the rail line, disconnecting residents from their “lifeline to the south”.

Throughout 2017, there was much debate on who is responsible for the estimated $40 million to repair the line. After it is repaired, how long will it be before major repairs are required again?

Much of this rail line is built on permafrost. Even before the flooding, there has been increasing difficulty with the line due to melting of the permafrost and increasing frost heaving.

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Current technology

In March 2005, a Winnipeg-based consortium called ISO Polar Airships was founded as a not-for-profit airship research institute to undertake economic and engineering studies into airship use.

In 2011, Buoyant Aircraft Systems International (BASI) was founded as a commercial enterprise. BASI had a research hangar and two airships at St. Andrews airport. The uninsured hanger and airships were completely destroyed in July 2016.


Since 2014, Hybrid Enterprises has been marketing the Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airship. The LMH1 will initially transport 20 tonnes of cargo or 19 passengers, plus 2 crew members. This is about the same payload as a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. The company expects to have a 50 tonne payload model by 2020.

Hybrid Enterprises is accepting orders with deliveries beginning in 2018. The cost is about $40 million USD. This cost is more than for a Hercules ($12 – $30 million). However, the airship has a lower operating and maintenance cost, can take-off and land on unimproved surfaces, requires minimal ground support equipment and can stay aloft for days.

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