Hydrogen Airship Fantasy

Imaginary Aircruise clipper

The press falls for publicity stunt… Hook, Line, & Dirigible:

What began as a fun exercise by a London design firm, to publicize the creative thinking of the firm and its client Samsung, has been picked up as if it were a real “news story” by CNN, the Telegraph, and other media outlets.

Tragedy at LakehurstThe firm of Seymourpowell has previously designed sex toys and packaging for condomstampon applicators and cat food but has never engineered an aircraft, yet they recently announced “plans” for a 100-passenger, octahedron-shaped, 870-foot tall luxury airship called the Aircruise, inflated with over 11 million cubic feet of flammable hydrogen (just like the Hindenburg).

Apparently no-one told CNN or the Telegraph that this is an amusing design exercise and not a real aeronautical possibility, and they didn’t check with any engineers before printing the Seymourpowell press release.

This was a great publicity move which generated significant media coverage.  And there is no denying that Seymourpowell’s airship fantasy is beautiful: It inspires people to imagine the possibilities of the future, just as they intended, and shows that Seymourpowell and Samsung can dream great dreams.  In fact, it follows a long tradition of airship futurism, in which airships have been used to illustrate the promise of a brighter tomorrow. But it is not a real project.

In cooperation with its client, Samsung, the firm produced a lavish CGI video with depictions of the ship’s modern interiors, which include passenger apartments complete with kitchens and cooking ranges (always a good idea on a hydrogen airship).

Unfortunately a few media outlets now have egg on their face for passing this along as a real project, without first checking the facts with aeronautical engineers or aerospace consultants.

Even the tiniest bit of journalistic skepticism would have raised some questions:

docking-station

  • The airship is shaped like a giant wall, the worst possible aerodynamic design, as opposed to a more streamlined form; it would require tremendous amounts of energy to overcome wind resistance for forward motion, assuming it could fly against headwinds at all.
  • The video focuses mainly on the beautifully-designed interiors, but interior design has never made an aircraft fly and the focus on lounges, penthouses, and other features unrelated to flight should have been another question mark for journalists.  (The Battlestar Galactica has cool interiors, too, but that doesn’t mean it can fly.)
  • The ship is supposed to operate from a modernistic docking station, but since the aircraft is shaped like a giant sail virtually any gust of wind would drive the ship into the station’s pincer-like claws, shredding the envelope and causing a disaster of Hindenburg-like proportions.
  • Reporters should also have noticed that the floating diamond has no visible means of propulsion or directional control: it has no propellers, thrusters, engines, or visible control surfaces.  But instead of raising questions about the design multiple news stories have claimed the airship will carry passengers from London to New York in 37 hours, at speeds up to 150 km/h, even faster than the ill-fated (but at least streamlined) Hindenburg.
  • And then, of course, there’s the hydrogen.

The Seymourpowell publicity campaign was brilliant, but the incident serves as a warning to journalists who are tempted to rely on a press release about a technical subject without seeking independent verification of the facts.

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Vitaly VoloshinChristian VogtDesign LoverJames BondTimothy M Recent comment authors
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Design Lover

Thanks for this post. I’m totally into design, and follow eductation for it here in Arnhem (Holland). Keep up the good work! I’ll keep following posts on this blog.

Cheers from Holland

James Bond

Hi folks, The situation in Google search for airship is getting worse, if you look at page one there is only Airship Ventures (Who are friends of Google owners) on page 1, to represent actual airship companies with a real airship. Apart from high profile information sites there seem to… Read more »

Timothy M
Timothy M

Someone really needs to edit the wikipedia page for it, otherwise many people could be caught out – whoever wrote it up neglected to mention any of this, or just didn’t know. Unfortunately I can’t do it as I have no experience editing wikipedia pages. So someone out there, fix… Read more »

Jerin

Turtle Airships, Skycat, Cargolifter, Aereon-26, how many times must we fail before we ACTUALLY succeed in building a noteworthy rigid airship? I pray to GOD that the Sunship and Aeroscraft ML-866 pan out because both have a pre-existing companies backing them instead of hot air, pardon the pun. Not to… Read more »

Michael Hopp
Michael Hopp

Beautiful idea, poor design. I’d seen this myself a while back, and the first thing that I thought was “How terribly un-aerodynamic.” The second thing I thought was “Hydrogen?! That can’t be right…” Yet again, great idea but poor concept. Just like that Soviet design that had virtually no room… Read more »

Christian Vogt
Christian Vogt

Bist Du der Michael von Cl ???

Cary Cupka
Cary Cupka

Add to your list of “gullible” media outlets non other than the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Their April 2010 issue of Sport Pilot carried a news clip titled “Airship promises green luxury airship travel” on page 16 in the Aeroinnovations section highlighting “cutting edge developments.” I reckon they might as… Read more »

Gary
Gary

A wonderful exercise in creativity. It’s always nice to dream a little.

Dallas S
Dallas S

But it has given us all an opportunity to stretch our minds, hasn’t it? Remember what they said about heavier than air aviation before it was proven…
Be careful with your words; use the best, most digestible words to slate anything,,, you may have to eat them later.

Denis
Denis

your guys are so negative and narrow minded!

Matt O
Matt O

Yeah we sure are narrow minded. Apologies are going out starting now. It became clear to me after I watched the YouTube video that this Airship will be Skippered by none other than Harry Potter, and the propulsion and control system is the always green PFM (Pure Friggin’ Magic) System.… Read more »

Hugh Ashton

The magic phrase in Japan, where I live, is “Eco”. To be fair, many Japanese are seriously concerned about certain aspects of the environment (not all, by any means!), but the over-use of “Eco” on everything from cat food to airships (I exaggerate for effect) does indeed have a mind-numbing… Read more »