|The boutique-sized "Manned Cloud" will reintroduce the art of 'slow travel'|
With more and more attention focused on our lust for fossil fuels, exciting innovations have allowed us to revisit some early 20th Century technology – the mighty airship.
|The Graf Zeppelin in 1927|
Now while designers are pre-occupied with massive craft to carry freight and mining equipment, the positive offshoot of this promising technology is the revival of that most romantic of luxury air travel, the passenger airship.
There is no debate about the massive resurgence in ocean cruising, so it follows that the slow travel formula can just as easily be applied to the air.
One alluring project is the so-called 'Manned Cloud", a flying boutique hotel proposed by Frenchman, Jean-Marie Massaud. Environmentally friendly, ultra-luxurious and styled to resemble an airborne whale, it is the equivalent of a luxury private yacht carrying 40 passengers at a speed of 130kmh. It will travel 5000 km (Sydney – Perth) in just 72 hours.
In 1927, the only round-the-world zeppelin flight was completed with Australian adventurer, Sir Hubert Wilkins aboard. The same airship, LZ127, made 144 ocean crossings carrying 13,110 passengers with a perfect passenger safety record. It seems reasonable that such a feat could easily be replicated with the significantly enhanced technology available today.
|The massive Aeroscraft flying cruise|
ship does not require a runway
On a more cruise ship-like scale is the Aeroscraft, a 200m long behemoth capable of carrying 250 passengers from Sydney to Singapore at 280kmh in hotel comfort. The beauty of the Aeroscraft is that, as a vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) craft, it requires no runway. "You can land on the snow or you can land on the water," says designer Igor Pasternak. "It's a new vision of what can be done in the air."
|Flightseeing with the massive|
Aeroscraft flying cruise ship.
Not surprisingly, cruise companies have expressed an interest in this concept which is tantalisingly close to realisation, however the company is likely to gain initial sales from heavy lift cargo and military applications before any luxury cruising airships appear.
Notwithstanding, the move to more responsible, relaxed travel is growing and airships consume a fraction of the fuel and produce a similarly meagre carbon by-product, it is only a matter of time before these graceful giants reappear above us.