Just hot air

or just more academic flatulence? Now we have to admit that we feel a wee bit guilty about this next item, particularly considering that we are running an environment supplement on pages preceding this. But when we saw article on giant airships carrying cargo in a decade’s time, we honestly had to check the calendar […]


or just more academic flatulence? Now we have to admit that we feel a wee bit guilty about this next item, particularly considering that we are running an environment supplement on pages preceding this. But when we saw article on giant airships carrying cargo in a decade’s time, we honestly had to check the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April fool’s day! And nope, it was clearly July and the story, picked up by newspapers around the world, was based on a recent report from Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. So it must be credible, right? In a nutshell, the esteemed authors of Just Hot Air? The development of lighter-than-air craft and their possible impact, review the history of the various incarnations of airships from the infamous Hindenburg to the now defunct CargoLifter to the latest design which envisions an outer shell covered with a thin, flexible layer of solar panels.

The report goes on to argue that although slower – 140 KPM versus 900 KPM – they could carry up to nine times the capacity of a B747-400 freighter with a 90 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions. “Lorries in the sky,” the report calls them! Well, among the the many things the air cargo industry has to worry about, I don’t think the floating lorries are going to cause any cargo exec to lose sleep. Isn’t the whole point of air cargo…speed? Sure you can get nine times the amount of grapes from South Africa in one go…but by the time they get to London’s supermarket shelves, they’ll be raisins! At any rate, its nice to know that academia still has its head in the clouds.