Hyde Field

“W32 Airport Sold, Closing November 30”

Seeing an email informing of the closure of Hyde Field piqued my curiosity. While living and flying in California, there were several occasions when the local aviation groups coalesced, strategized, and organized events and fly-ins to support endangered airports. Santa Monica, Oxnard and Oceano airports come to mind. And how can we forget the abrupt midnight bulldozing of Meigs Field in 2003? Out of curiosity I started to research the reasoning behind this abrupt closure. Although I have flown out of Potomac Airport (VKX), one of the “Maryland 3” airports, I have never flown into or out of Hyde Field. As I pondered the closing announcement, an intriguing idea started to take shape: How about doing a flight into Hyde Field and recording a landing before it closes?

Washington Executive Airport (W32) or Hyde Field, is a public-use general aviation (GA) airport located near Clinton, MD. It is one of the “Maryland 3” airports located within the Washington, D.C. Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), and subject to the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) restrictions imposed by the FAA. The third airport being College Park (CGS).

Hyde field was built by Arthur Hyde and opened in 1934 as a training field for United States Army aviators to support primary flight training during WW2. The earliest known depiction in a sectional chart was in the 1941 Washington Sectional Chart, which depicted Hyde Field as a commercial / municipal airport. Earliest known aerial photo from 1943 depicts the airfield as having four runways. A 1960 Jeppesen Airway Manual depicts two runways. Hyde Field currently has a single runway. Due to the onerous SFRA restrictions leading to declining revenues at the airport, in 2008 there were plans to shut it down and redevelop the land. The airport has been on sale for the past 15 years with the latest sale in 2020 falling through and ending up in bankruptcy court.

A recent AOPA article from Feb 2022 on following John Wilkes booth’s escape route notes: “Civil War buffs and conspiracy theorists will want to visit the Surratt House Museum, three miles northeast in Clinton, Maryland… The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum is located 17 miles southeast of the airfield. Mudd was the doctor who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth on the morning after Lincoln’s assassination…. Booth fled south from Mudd’s to Pope’s Creek, where he boarded a boat to cross the Potomac River into Virginia. Today, that spot is close to Captain Billy’s Crab House and Gilligan’s Pier (a steak and seafood restaurant that is operated seasonally). Enjoy a lunch of Maryland blue crabs at one of these waterfront restaurants and contemplate Booth paddling across the river in the dark of night, trying to make his escape.”

A little after 10 am, Marianne and I set off from Maryland Airport (2W5) in the Citabria, not the same one I did my tailwheel training, but a similar one. It really is a fun aircraft to fly, and it was great to be back in the air in it. A couple of touch and goes to refamiliarize myself again with stick and rudder flying, and off we went for the short hop to Hyde Field. The weather gods had relented. It was calm, and pristine day with clear blue skies. Rain was expected later in the night and next day, but for now, it was perfect flying weather. We couldn’t have asked for a better day for our brief flying adventure.

We had already negotiated our arrival into Hyde Field with the airport manager, filed a FRZ flight plan, received clearance, and within a few minutes we arrived at our destination. The runway was already in a sorry state for lack of maintenance. And no, we did not visit Surratt House Museum, or contemplate Booth’s escape across the Potomac over crab cakes. We did walk around the airport checking out the abandoned and dilapidated hangars and contemplated the loss of the airport to GA. Out of the more than 100 aircraft based at the airport, only 30 still remain according to the Airport Manager. By the end of the month, they too will be gone, as developers tear down everything and began construction of residential houses. After topping off at the self-serve fuel station, we retraced our path and the short return trip back to Maryland airport.

It was a trip down memory lane for Marianne who had originally based her aircraft there decades ago. When I had reached out to her to gauge her interest, she was immediately enthusiastic to participate in the adventure. It is saddening to see the airport close, but the location, the closeness to Washington DC, mere steps away from Andrews Air Force Base, the stringent FRZ requirements, residential neighborhoods, and a host of other factors likely contributed to the fate of the airport. GA Airports constantly face such challenges and will continue to face them.

Come 5pm November 30, 2022, Hyde Field will be no more. This single landing is symbolic at best, but a show of support for an airport that once served its purpose.

See Also:

Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields

Hyde Field

Wikipedia: Washington Executive Field

AOPA: Following the John Wilkes Booth Trail

Smithsonian Magazine: The Day They Shut Down Meigs Field

Flynthings: Save Santa Monica Airport

Flynthings: Oceano Airport A Slice of Paradise in the California Central Coast

Remote Pilot – ✔

FAA officially published Part 107 in 2016 and published an ammended version in Jan 2021. Part 107 allows certificated remote pilots to operate a small drone less than 55 lbs. for commercial use and the operations can be conducted over people, at night and from moving vehicles.  

The key requirements to obtain the remote pilot certificate are to take the Part 107 course, knowledge test and obtain a FAA tracking number (FTN). There are two options available depending on whether you are a first-time pilot or an existing Part 61 pilot. The steps for either option is similar with the only difference being that first time pilots have to use an FAA approved Knowledge Testing Center, while Part 61 pilots can complete the course and take the test online. One requirement for existing Part 61 pilots is to have a current flight review within the last 24 months. After successful course completion, Part 61 pilots can use one of the available 4 methods to complete the process: make an appointment with FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), FAA designated Flight Examiner (DPE), airman certification representative (ACR) or FAA Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).

In order to fly a drone for recreational purposes, there is no requirement to get a Part 107 certificate. Instead, the FAA requires recreational flyers to take and pass the Recreational unmanned aircraft system (UAS) Safety Test (TRUST) and carry the proof of passage when flying. The rules for recreational flyers are coded in USC 44809 and key requirements include following the rules of a Community Based Organization (CBO), always keeping the drone in sight, not interfering with existing national airspace system (NAS) operations, flying at or below 400ft in uncontrolled airspace, and at or below authorized altitudes in controlled airspace, carry proof of test passage, current registration (for Part 107), remote ID (for registered drones after Sept 2023), and to always ensure safety.

I have been thinking about getting my remote pilot certificate for some time now. Although, owing to not being current, I delayed getting the certificate. Now that I am current again, as a first milestone, I completed both my Part 107 remote pilot certificate as well as the recreational flyer TRUST course. The Part 107 course takes two solid hours to review the material and take the test, and the required a trip to the FSDO to submit and get a temporary certificate. The final one will be mailed within 6 months. The TRUST course on the other hand was fairly concise and can be completed in 30-40 minutes. Both Part 107 remote pilots and recreational flyers need to review the corresponding courses every 24 months.

Some useful tools include: B4UFly, UASFM, DroneZone, LAANC.

Best place to start: https://www.faa.gov/uas

So yay! Remote Pilot ✔

Oracle

It was just after I got my private pilot license, one of the first airshows I attended was the Salinas International Air Show. The biggest attraction was the Sean Tucker and Team Oracle. Local news was abuzz that year:

“Tucker returns with the excitement and enthusiasm of a kid who”s back to play before his hometown crowd. Having won the Championship Air Show Pilots Association (CASPA) Challenge for the fourth straight year this past July, he also brings the very best that the world of aerobatics has to offer.”

After watching him fly and see my very first airshow, I came away with excitement too. Aerobatics was on my mind. Tucker School of Aerobatics was a mere short drive away from my airport homebase and I even made the trek up there to checkout the school and aerobatics training opportunities.

Oracle Challenger III, the aircraft now graces the Thomas Haas We All Fly exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. Since that first airshow, I have seen the Oracle Challenger at many airshows around the country, so excited to see it displayed at NASM.

We All Fly: First Airplane Ride

No pilot ever forgets his first airplane ride – Bill Kershner

Coming across this quote recently brought back some fond memories of my very first flight in a small airplane. Seems almost another life time ago. but oh so true… a pilot never forgets!

It was back during my college days that I had the good fortune to go for my very first ride in a glider, ably piloted by my friend, a glider pilot and fellow class mate. It was a short and sweet flight. An introduction into the wonderful world of flying. Until then even though I had thought of it, it seemed beyond reach, not only in terms of access but also in terms of cost and effort needed. I had attended the local glider flying club meeting with him and considering the cost and options offered by the club, it almost seemed possible. I was excited and enthusiastic and ready to try.

Despite the excitement of my first flight, it’s my second flight though that overshadows my first one. Who can forget the adventure of an emergency landing on a street, the long day and process of dismantling the glider and towing it back to the airport?

Gliding? Hmm… maybe. While that episode caused a brief pause in pursuing my pilot license, it certainly did not deter me and a few years later, I did obtain my private pilot license. The joy of flying knows no bounds. It has to be experienced!

The National Air and Space Museum in DC is going through a complete transformation. The renovations in progress have added several new galleries. It is exciting to see a new General Aviation gallery. If it has been a while since you visited NMB, be sure to check it out if you are in the area. It might almost seem like a brand new museum!

See Also:

An Encounter with Gliding

National Air and Space Museum

Current Again. Yes!

Lately I have been thinking about the word “Rusty”.

Back in 2011, I had thought four months was too long a gap since my last flight. The gap this time was almost four years. For the first time, I even missed a flight review or two. It was interesting to experience the true meaning of “Rusty Pilot”. It was interesting to realize how much can be forgotten if one is not flying regularly!

While the review of current policies, procedures, regulations, aeronautical information, aircraft performance, weather and environmental factors are all vital and necessary, and can be part of every day activities even if one is not a pilot, the visual acuity, coordination, practical techniques, sensory perceptions, nuances, awareness and resource management are vital skills that are all accrued over time through application. These skills evolve and grow through continuous application, recurrent training, and pursuing other advanced ratings and endorsements.

As with anything, human behavior is built through constant practice and application. We focus on what’s in front of us or what’s important in the moment. With time forgetfulness can seep in. Other factors such as loss of memory, age etc. might add to it. As I attempted to refresh my memory, it was interesting to realize how much I had forgotten. Although I have been attending virtual rusty pilot seminars over the last two years, it was evident almost immediately to me that despite having flown for almost two decades one can forgot basic things from lack of practice.

May has always been the month. I got my private pilot license in May. Three years later, I got my instrument rating also in May. This meant every two years May was the month for my flight review with my instructor to maintain currency. That is, until this year.

Its good to be current again, after this unplanned hiatus!

Links:

AOPA Rusty Pilots

BFR, It can be fun!

Flying Lessons: Flight Review

Rusty Pilot Seminar

Rusty IFR Pilot Seminar

Repost: Rusty Pilot Seminar

There was time when I attended a safety pilot seminar monthly. Be it hosted by the FAA Safety Office, AOPA, 99s or other aviation organizations.  In fact I helped organize some fly n talk safety seminars as an active member of the local SLO chapter of the 99s. Living in a small town with numerous highly active aviation organizations there was never a chance to feel rusty.

Lately that is what I have been feeling. Rusty. I no longer fly as often as I did and I am sorry to report that today was the first in person safety seminar I have attended in the last 4 years (sans the one or two AOPA webinars I managed to listen in to). Living in a large metropolitan area, commuting on a weekday competing with the rush hour traffic attempting to get home expeditiously, it is impossible to consider attending a safety seminar.

Safety seminars on any topic are a great asset to general aviation pilots. It’s a shame to pay $50 when AOPA hosts so many freely if only they were conveniently timed and located. But considering I hadn’t attended one in 4 years, it was still worth the cost to attend one to review all that I had learned during my private pilot training. An in person safety seminar is also an excellent way to get all your doubts and questions answered. I even managed to come away learning something I did not know before!

Continue to read https://flynthings.net/2012/10/07/rusty-pilot-seminar/.

Repost: Avalon Airport in the Sky

“A Mediterranean resort off the coast of Southern California”


Now that my Instrument training was finally over, I was ready for new adventures. The past few months had been hectic and nerve racking. Instrument training is very demanding and I am glad that, it is finally behind me. Browsing through “Fun places to fly in California” I thought I may as well start with the first airport listed there, which happened to be Avalon. I have wanted to fly to Avalon for sometime now. I had been under the misapprehension that I needed some kind of checkout prior to attempting to fly there. As it turned out, the flying club I rented from had no such restriction.

Continue to read here.

Repost: Nathan

Hoping to continue working on the novel this fall….

June gloom was upon us. Only in California, could one expect such gloomy weather in late spring. The dark overcast skies, and faint drizzle presented a somberness that reflected our moods as we made our way to say goodbye to Nathan. It seems even the weather gods were unhappy.

There was a beautiful service for Nathan at the Dessert Lawn Funeral Home & Cemetery. Almost everyone connected with Dessert Air and Dessert Maintenance was there. Even Dessert Air students had come to bid their farewell. Despite his quirky behavior, everyone loved Nathan. We all watched as the body was lowered and Father Francis gave Nathan a beautiful memorial service. In conclusion, Father Francis quoted the scriptures as he finished his prayers:

“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Strange choice of quote from Romans 6:16 I thought. Did I see HIM flinch? Are my eyes playing tricks, I wondered. With Amelia beside me, and my wounds healing, I was grateful to be safe. The question remained, Why me? Why did someone tie me up for the dead? What did they want with me? Why Amelia? Moreover, why Nathan? What had he seen or heard? What had we seen or heard? Why kill him? Why did they want us out of the way? I was not even sure it was they. I had all these questions, but no answers. For now, we were safe maybe, but for how long?

Continue to read here.

From Dirigibles to Drones: The rebirth of the dirigible

Historically, airships have endured awe-inspiring success due to their sheer size, but also spectacular failure such as with the infamous Hindenburg crash. Throughout history, there have been dramatic and disruptive airplane innovations, which have altered the course of events. We are in the midst of the next major revolution with the advent of the drones. In recent years, interest in airships has slowly seen a comeback with modern uses in tourism, surveillance, freight, and military operations.

German Zeppelin

Transformational Airplane Designs

            The desire to fly has enthralled humankind for centuries. As far back as 1700 BC, legend indicates that Daedalus prepared two pairs of wings and along with his son, Icarus, launched over the sea. While Icarus crashed to his death from having flown too close to the sun, Daedalus did survive. Although there were myriads of attempts at flight, it was not until the 18th century that saw considerable progress in flight. Advances in aerial navigation, basic aerodynamics, and aeronautical principles led to the development of the glider and the first manned flight.  The 18th century also saw development of the ballonet: an elliptical vehicle capable of flight against the wind.

Lighter than air (LTA) vehicles, also known as airships or dirigibles were derived from balloons and evolved by trial and error. There are gas filled, tethered, untethered, and novel vehicles that advanced in development as new materials and technologies became available. The first dirigible was flown by Henri Giffard in 1852 from Paris to Trappe. The dirigible was steam engine powered and achieved speeds of 6.7mph.  This was followed by a gas engine powered dirigible in 1872, metal dirigible powered by a Daimler engine in 1897 and the first zeppelin flew in 1900, achieving speeds of 18mph.

By 1909, pleasure flights were offered in the Zeppelin followed by commercial flights the following year. By 1914, almost 34,000 passengers were carried. With the advent of war, Zeppelins were used for air raids provoking a wave of international outrage at his act of German barbarism. The success of the Zeppelin led to the building of a fleet of airships. Hydrogen was used in these lighter than airships (LTA). The two lifting gases typically used were Hydrogen and Helium. Hydrogen was lighter, provide more lift and was cheaper, but was highly flammable. Helium was a commodity during the war, since US had monopoly on helium supply in the world and were the sole users of helium in airships.

In 1930, the fatal crash of LZ-128 due to a hydrogen fire resulted in the death of all passengers and pilot. The consequence of this event, led to the development of LZ-129 also known as the Hindenberg. Regular transatlantic service began in 1936. The Hindenberg crashed at Lakehurst, New Jersey killing all aboard on its first North American flight in 1937. Pan American Airways started scheduled flights across the Pacific. The Hindenberg was obsolete even before it flew, marking the end of the airship era.

After the first successful powered flight by the Wright Brothers in 1903, rapid progress occurred in aircraft design spurred especially by the two World Wars where dominance in air afforded the most success. Before the end of the 20th century, man had flown higher than the birds that he so eyed wistfully before flight had become a reality. The first men had landed on the moon, walked in space and unmanned exploration of the galaxy and beyond advanced quickly leading to improved technologies to support these efforts that also benefited other uses that were more firmly rooted on Earth.

The first pilotless, steam powered aerodromes designed by Samuel Langley flew in 1986 along the Potomac River and were used for aerial reconnaissance in the Spanish-American wars. During the World Wars, they were used extensively for reconnaissance. The first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew a merely decade after the first successful Wright Brothers flight.

 In 1917, Elmer Sperry and Peter Hewitt, constructed a radio controlled automatic airplane called the “Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane” that could fly 50 miles and carry a 300lb bomb. The success of the “flying bomb”, led to the rail launched Kettering Aerial Torpedo “Bug”. Through the 1920s and 1930s, progress continued in the remotely controlled ships. The “Pilotless Aircraft Branch” of the US Air Force was established in 1946 and three types of drones were developed with air launched Q-2, the most important one that became the “father” target drones. Following the success of pilotless and remotely piloted technologies, the US Air Force began experiments in the 1950s for high altitude reconnaissance.

The remotely piloted or unmanned aircraft systems (RPAS/UAS) can have varying levels of automation and autonomy. The many applications that these vehicles can be used for include security, monitoring, emergency response, surveillance and recreation. The evolution and revolution of new technologies and advancement in automation have transformed the drone into a domesticated item that now is used recreationally by millions of people and the list of commercial uses continues to grow.

The Rebirth of the Dirigible

Interest in airships has rejuvenated as transportation needs to remote and distance areas arose in recent years. Previously these remote areas that are not easily accessible by roads such as in Canada and the Artic were serviced by airfreight, sea shipments, and ice roads. The impact of global warming has the continued use of these ice roads unreliable.  Lockheed Martin has been under a contract to build heavier than air airships that can carry up to 20 tons of cargo to serve these areas.  There is also a growing interest to using airships in congested overly populated areas to relieve rush hour traffic nightmares.

There is mixed opinion on the economic practicality of these especially concerning with passenger and freight operations; however, advances in technology and innovation supports viability in the modern use of the dirigibles. They have excellent range performance and low cost. In recent years, research continues on the modern application of LTA designs for tourism, surveillance, border patrol, freight and lifting operations, and special military operations.

Dirigibles can be classified by hull such as rigid, semi-rigid and non-rigid; by payload capability such as heavy-lift or medium lift; and by vertical force such as heavier than air or lighter than air and hybrid. In addition, there are several unconventional airships:

  • Spherical airships that achieve trade-off between maximum lift and minimum air resistance and prove excellent for mooring as shown in Figure 4. Prototypes of Spherical airships have been built by 21st Century Airships Inc., a Canadian company.
  • Lenticular airships that are shaped like wings and helpful for maneuver control and make it possible to compensate for accidental overloading. Prototypes of this type of airships were created by French LTA Corporation
  • Double-hull and multiple hull designs used for hybrid vehicles and achieve a reduction in in length for a given volume of gas providing increased lift and load capability. Advanced Technologies Group Ltd., a British company has built the double hull design
  • Winged airship designs derived from airplane design, and exploits the aerodynamic lift generation capability and provides natural stability. The whale shaped airship, Manned Cloud, is shown in Figure 7. Proposed by French designer, its purpose is to serve as a luxury fitness, spa and restaurant.

Through application of new materials, technologies and techniques, modern airships can be designed that are safe, stable and reliable and humankind’s fascination with airship design continues to grow and evolve. There are also innumerable drone designs based on their mission and purpose from small quadrotors to the large Global Hawk and Predator drones.

From Dirigibles to Drones: A marriage made in heaven

In 2013 Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, announced that they would start testing drones for utilization in package deliver. More recently, Amazon has filed a patent with the US Patent Office for a giant flying warehouses or Airborne Fulfillment Centers, which would house merchandise, warehouse workers and drone launching platforms that would be used to launch drones to make deliveries. The airship will hover over the intended delivery area at an altitude of 45,000 ft. Winged drones with little or no power would glide down to the delivery site to deliver the package. After delivery, they would be collected at the collection zone and shuttled back to the airborne fulfillment center.

Conceptual:). Drone Delivery from flying blimp fulfillment centers?

Two centuries later, humankind continues to remain fascinated with the dirigible. In recent years, drones have revolutionized and captured our attention to the same if not higher level. In addition, I suspect they will continue to excite and fascinate us in the future. In combining these two revolutionary and transformational technologies, it seems Bezos has proposed a marriage made in heaven at 45,000 ft.

Back to the Future: Modern Applications of the Airship

The history of the airship is one of both awe-inspiring success and spectacular failure.  The awe was generated from the sheer size of these floating ships, and for the time, the impressive performance in payload and speed they produced.  Likewise, the failures were equally, if not more captivating, since the spectacle produced by the crash of a giant behemoth filled with combustible gas would surely be hard to ignore.  The infamous Hindenburg disaster in 1937 and its images have been used metaphorically for depicting ill-fated and ill-advised aerospace ventures for decades.  Following that calamity, the development and use of lighter than air (LTA) ships was significantly curtailed, but not abandoned entirely.  Looking forward, it appears that perhaps some of the technology that advanced airplane development rapidly ahead of LTA aircraft may now be utilized to exploit the unique characteristics and capabilities of these ships.

Applications – Past and Present

            The fundamental utility of the airship has not significantly changed over the past century:  it can be used for observation of all manner of the electromagnetic spectrum and to convey a payload.  This would include advertising and public promotions and demonstrations.  Consider that the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio has been advertising from their blimps for over 90 years.  In the early 20th Century, the development of the airship was advancing due to its significantly superior performance compared to aircraft of the time.  It is clear from history, however, that due to a confluence of rapid technological innovations with the airplane and other related technologies, such as rockets and satellites, the airship became displaced by other machines that were better in getting the job done.  It has found niches that have allowed it to perform various tasks throughout the past century, nonetheless, and the airship still captures the interest of aerospace engineers and enthusiasts.  Accordingly, there has been an “unexpected and dramatic renaissance” in LTA ships based upon unique and unconventional shapes and hybrid propulsion systems.  The application of modern LTA designs fall into these following broad categories:

  • Tourism (both premium luxury and eco-tourism)
  • Surveillance (civil, military, agriculture, environmental, etc.)
  • Counter Insurgency/Terrorism, Piracy, and Border Control
  • Special Military Operations (ultra-high altitude and duration, electronic relay)
  • Freight and Lifting Operations (flying crane)

The experts are mixed on the economic practicality of some of these, particularly with respect to passenger and freight operations; however, there exists some viability with the right mix of technology and innovation.  Examples include using aerodynamic shapes that produce lift, autonomous operation, and hybrid electrical power systems that both consume hydrogen in fuel cells and produce hydrogen by way of solar cells.  These technologies can be expensive to develop, however, and except for government sponsored research and operational requirements, finding the capital to move forward means finding a market.  Nevertheless, some key civilian applications of airship undergoing study include freight transport, mobile phone antennas, tourism, and surveillance.  All have their roots in past applications of the airship.

Transport

In recent years, interest in airships have seen a comeback to transport cargo to remote and distant areas that are not easily accessible by roads such as Canada and the Artic.  Typically, these remote areas are serviced by airfreight, sea shipments, and ice road. Until recently, these remote areas could rely on the winter ice roads, but climate change impacts on the melting ice has led to uncertainty in their continued use.  To improve access to these remote areas, Lockheed Martin has a contract to build 12 heavier than air airships that can carry up to 20 tons of cargo.  There is also a growing interest to using airships in a cruiser and feeder system to connect major populated areas.

Mobile phone networking

The use of mobile phones has grown tremendously and there is ongoing research on the use of High Altitude Platform Systems (HAPS), which would replace earth bound antennas and reduce radiation effects drastically. According to a Swiss inventor, an unmanned aircraft outfitted with a mobile phone antenna would be mounted on a solar powered airship providing the platform with the technical equipment.  Note that Union balloons in the Civil War telegraphed Confederate positions to their artillery gunners for accurate fire.

Science Experiments

            LTAs have been used for science from the earliest days of ballooning; in 1794 an English scientist named Jeffries ascended to 9000 feet making measurements of temperature and pressure.  Today, owing to their slow speeds and stability, airships are also being considered to serve as platforms for airborne gravity measurements.  Krasnov, Sokolov and Rzhevskiy used an airship to carry gravimetric equipment. The slow speed and altitude provide a good platform for the surveys, however, such a system provided insufficient accuracy due to the recurrent inertial accelerations which could be improved by maintaining constant altitude.  Nevertheless, the concept proved workable.

On-demand Hypercommuting

Another potential modern use of an airship that is being researched is to provide an on-demand commuting vehicle across congested areas such as the San Francisco bay area.  They propose a “semi-rigid hulled lighter than air (LTA) airship” with a carriage slung below it with four tethers whereby the airship provides the lift and loitering capability, while the cycloidal rotors provide the lift for the payload and propulsion.  The customer vehicle drives into the carriage where it is secured and then transported by the airship to its destination.  It is anticipated that such a system would carry up to five passengers and cut travel times in congested traffic areas, however, the cost to operate such a system appear prohibitive at this time.

Military and Defense Applications

As evidenced throughout the development of the LTA aircraft over the decades, militaries have found innovative and viable uses for these devices both in defensive and offensive operations.  Configurations include both manned and un-manned, tethered and free floating, and all sorts of structures to include balloons, blimps, and rigid and semi-rigid airships.  Some were effective weapons of war, others did not obtain the desired results or were quite dangerous for the crews that manned them.  Even today, 117-foot-long unmanned balloons called aerostats are common sites in the skies over Afghanistan, providing 24-hour monitoring and video surveillance.  Defense research agencies are continuing advanced study and deployment of LTAs as this application provides a capability desired by both military units on the ground and senior policy makers at the national level. 

There are a multitude of new and exciting ideas for airships of the 21st century utilizing cutting edge technology in design, control, automation, and power production.  The problems airships face is that of economics and competition:  new technology is expensive and alternative air vehicles such as UAVs seem to be attracting much more interest.  While science, military, and security applications for LTAs are prevalent today and appear to have a secure future, many experts in commercial aviation do not see a robust market for airship freighters except niches such as remote jungle or arctic locations with limited or no infrastructure.  As with the airships of the past, opportunity, innovation, competition, and the market will ultimately determine the future of these majestic ships.