Airship Thursday July 8, 2010, 0 comments

Whenever I am watching a movie that is set in the times before modern air travel, I get this gnawing sense that the romance and adventure of travel has been lost. Because we (at least in the western world) are so focused on destinations and not journeys, we have naturally gravitated toward jet travel as a fast and convenient way to get to the far flung corners of the world.

I am a sailor, so I am used to not getting places in a hurry, am used to seeing the journey itself as the point, as opposed to merely arriving. I enjoy jet travel as much as one can, I guess, and it is nice that Europe is only hours away, since it means Sarah and I can visit her family in the UK, but something is being lost, and I lament it.

Think about that ‘golden age’ of travel, when steamships plied the oceans with hundreds of people aboard, travelling from Europe, North America to wherever. We can improve on it, minimize it’s deficiencies. Sea travel is very much at the mercy of weather, and lots of people get seasick, which are likely part of the reason that air travel so quickly replaced it. What we need is the elegance of sea tavel mixed with some of the conveniences of air travel. What we need is a return to airships.

We have the technology to make airships that don’t blow up any more. This is obviously desirable. They can be made as safe or safer than modern jet aircraft, and can be many times more efficient per passenger mile. It is about 5600kms form New York to London. A modern jet takes around 8 hours to make the trip. It would take an airship 38 to 46 hours to make the same trip.

Instead of being crammed into a tiny seat, airship travellers could be sitting at cafe tables sipping lattés and enjoying the view out the window. They could be gambling at a casino, or sitting in comfortable cinemas watching movies. They could even be standing on glassed in obervation decks, gazing out over the sea and clouds. They could have cabins to sleep in, with actual beds.

It seems a far more civilized way to travel, really. And potentially quite a bit cheaper, since a modern airship could potentially carry a lot more people at a much higher efficiency.

C’mon Richard Branson, can you make it about the journey, and not simply about arriving? Seems like the sort of thing that is right up your alley.


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