Airlander 10: The Orient Express of the sky

Imagine The Orient Express in the sky, that level of opulence and luxury, but with the ability to get absolutely anywhere in the world” is how Howard Guy, CEO of the UK-based Design consultancy ‘Design Q’ describes the Airlander 10, a hybrid airship with a luxurious interior developed by Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited, UK.

Howard Guy, CEO of Design Q

Hybrid airships are a new generation of airships that combine lighter-than-air lift with the aerodynamic lift of conventional aircraft when moving through the air. The result is better airspeed, payload capacity, fuel efficiency and hovering capability compared to conventional airships, while having better space, endurance and lifting capacity compared to an equivalent aeroplane.

Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited (HAV) was formed in 2007 and is based in Cardington Airfield, Bedfordshire, UK. In 2009, in partnership with Northrop Grumman as prime contractor, it won a US $ 500 million US Army contract to develop a Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). In 2012, it carried out a successful 90-minute test flight at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Unfortunately, the LEMV project was cancelled by the US Army in February 2013. HAV subsequently repurchased the envelope and associated materials and set about converting it into the civilian Airlander 10.

This is where Design Q come into the scene. HAV formed a partnership with the UK-based design consultancy to develop a new concept in luxury travel.

Airlander 10

Founded in 1997 by Howard Guy and his fellow ex-Jaguar designer Gary Doy, Design Q is one of the world’s leading independent design consultancies. Their breakthrough project was designing Virgin Atlantic’s revolutionary Upper-Class cabin in 2003 which introduced the angled seating and flatbed combination that re-wrote the rule book for business class travel. Then, in 2005, began their highly successful partnership with Bombardier Aerospace, first to design Bombardier’s Global Flight Deck, then collaborate on the design of their best-selling Challenger 350 business jet.

More recently, Design Q has been commissioned by Aerion to work on the design of the AS2, a supersonic business jet under development. “Design Q have helped design the fastest and most expensive business aircraft to date, and now with Airlander, Design Q are responsible for the interior of the largest flying luxury craft in the world!” says Howard.

Design Q have designed a ‘stateroom for the sky’, called Airlander 10… giving the operators the ability to create a bespoke space for discerning guests, from the ultimate honeymoon in the Royal Suite, to an extended family gathering of up to 18 persons.” –  Howard Guy, CEO of Design Q

Airlander is a unique aircraft. It can stay aloft for long periods of time and can travel very slowly or even hang in the sky. It can take off and land from virtually any flat surface, eliminating the need for traditional infrastructure like ports or airports. This opens up opportunities for luxury expeditions to places where existing transport cannot go. It also means that the journey can be a series of experiences and just as important as the destination itself.

Air travel has become very much about getting from A to B as quickly as possible. What we’re offering is a way of making the journey a joy,” says Stephen McGlennan, CEO of HAV. “Airlander challenges people to rethink the skies – that’s the driving force behind everything we do.

Airlander 10’s interior is unusually spacious. The cabin is larger than most single-aisle aircraft such as the A320. This space allowed the team at Design Q to use their extensive experience of luxury spaces to create something unique; something that will set new standards of excellence in air travel. “For example,” explains Howard, “the colours and finishes we have appointed for the interior are all high-end finishes. Luxury is about nurturing the senses, providing delight by thoughtful touches down to the tiniest detail. Designed to be relaxing, the real wood flooring and the Tai Ping silk carpets lift the interior to a class of its own. Luxury is also about the space and the freedom of space, allowing free movement and seclusion if required.

The luxury of space combined with the modular design approach allows for several types of luxuriously appointed suites to be incorporated into the design. Passengers will be able to enjoy horizon-to-horizon views throughout the aircraft, including the extensive ‘Infinity Lounge’ where “the sofas, generous in proportion for total relaxation and with the unique ability to rotate, allow perfect outward vision through the massive panoramic windows, or they can turn to face inwards for evening social events,” says Howard.

For whom is the Airlander 10 designed? According to Howard, it is “the discerning private individual who has enjoyed his jet and private yacht for many years, but is looking for something new and different, something that will give him and his guests unique access to remote parts of the world, to enjoy ‘slow travel’ that enables truly amazing views of our planet. Similarly, we envisage luxury travel companies will be equally keen to offer their well-heeled clients this unique travel experience.  We think the modularity of Airlander 10 will offer the flexibility such bespoke travel companies are looking for.