Airfreight must embrace dirigibles, says IATA

IN a move that has caused uproar at Airbus and Boeing, IATA has called for the airfreight industry to use airships rather than conventional freighters as a way to meet targets on greenhouse gases emissions.

“Lighter-than-air airships have a much higher fuel efficiency than heavier-than-air aircraft,” said an IATA spokesman, Jean Baptiste Meusnier. “This makes them ideal for the use of cargo, as seen with some of the super-heavy lifters already in operation.

“An airship produces 80 to 90 per cent fewer emissions than conventional aircraft,” explains Meusnier. “They also fly at the lower altitude of 4,000 feet instead of 35,000 feet, which means their water vapour trails contribute almost nothing to global warming.”

Two further advantages, he added, are that they don’t need a runway, so doing away with airports needing to expand, and are also very quiet, two benefits that are particularly attractive to politicians eager to appease disgruntled voters.

There is a downside, he admits, in that airships are not very fast. This may cause problems with time-sensitive freight, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, but he said that it would be good encouragement for Western consumers to grow more of their own food in their gardens.

A spokesman for Boeing, Owen Wright, expressed concern at IATA’s message: “The exhilaration of flying is too keen, the pleasure too great, for it to be neglected to glorified balloons.”

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