Airships -- Jet Stream Style

As a Boomer, I've made peace with the fact that I'm probably never going to drive a flying car. OK, fine, whatever. But I still don't understand why airships haven't come back.

Yet another new study, this time in in ScienceDirect, proposes using airships for long distance cargo transportation. Sounds reasonable to me.

The key twist in this study is using the jet stream to provide propulsion, thereby drastically reducing the amount of fuel that an airship would need to burn. The airship would ascend seven to twelve miles up to hit the air stream and then head east. The authors estimate that an airship could circle the globe (in the northern latitudes) in 16 days. So I guess you'd launch from New York with cargo for Europe, leave Europe with cargo for China and Japan, leave Asia with cargo for Seattle and the West Coast, and finally arrive back in New York. Seems doable.

The authors are also big on hydrogen for both the lift and the fuel of the ship. They don't have any miracle solutions for the problem of Hindenburg-style disasters but believe that the dangers of hydrogen have been exaggerated. As they point out, airplanes crash too.

And I couldn't help but notice that at the end of their paper the authors mention an idea that I'm planning to use for a future steampunk story: having airships carry spaceships up to the stratosphere for launch, thereby eliminating a whole lot of fuel just to get the spaceship into space itself. I thought it was a good idea when I had it and apparently they do too.


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