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British company backed by rock star aims to revive the age of the Zeppelin

Airlander10 aircraft
The company is owned by private investors including Iron Maiden's frontman Bruce Dickinson

A British manufacturer with ambitious plans to revive the age of the Zeppelin is seeking a £130m cash injection to get its giant airships into production.

Bedford-based Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) plans to use the proceeds to start work on the 300ft-long helium-filled dirigibles called Airlanders.

The company - owned by private investors including Iron Maiden frontman and aviation fan Bruce Dickinson along with German chemicals billionaire Christoph Henkel - is beginning the first-stage £30m fundraising this week.

It has secured provisional orders for 10 of the $50m (£39m) Airlanders from customers in green tourism and the clean energy industry after demonstrating the technology’s feasibility with a prototype funded by the US military.

It is planned that the initial cash call - run by Texas-based investment bank WoodRock - will allow these orders to be firmed up. HAV can then invest in pre-production.

A second funding round will be used to build a production line and take on up to 300 staff

A second £100m funding round next year will be used to build a production line and take on up to 300 staff with a target of being able to build 10 aircraft a year and have the first Airlander flying in 2022.

A combination of aerodynamics and buoyancy from helium mean Airlanders use a quarter of the fuel of an equivalent conventional aircraft.

They have a range of 4,000 nautical miles, payload of 10 tons and can stay airborne for five days.

Tom Grundy, HAV chief executive, said: “We are seeing interest split 50-50 between military and commercial.

"Airlander is an environmentally friendly aircraft so green energy and tour companies are interested. Airlander’s endurance appeals to the military because it can be used for long-term surveillance.”

The Airlander can fly as slow as 20 knots with a maximum speed of 80 knots Credit: Darren Harbar Photography

Another attraction of Airlander - which can fly as slow as 20 knots and has a maximum speed of 80 knots - is that it can land on any flat surface.

It does not need an airstrip, so can operate in remote areas.

Mr Grundy dismissed concerns that HAV is a revamp of a 100-year-old idea.

“This is 21st century technology for 21st century challenges.

"Environmental worries mean companies are looking for ways to deal with climate change," he said. 

"We offer a fundamentally different way of operating to what’s currently on offer.”