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How airships might make a comeback in aviation innovation

Airships were once at the forefront of aviation innovation.

They brought passengers across the oceans in luxurious cabins and protected US warships on the open seas. But as the aircraft quickly took over the aviation age, airships and airships disappeared from widespread use.

“Everyone is talking about the crash in Hindenburg being the end of the airship,” said flight historian Dan Grossman in an interview with CNBC. “All it did was hasten the end.”

Nowadays, airships are often only used for advertising or broadcasting. This is exactly how Goodyear uses its fleet of airships. In fact, according to the FAA, there are only 124 pilots with a rating in the US who are allowed to fly an airship.

There are companies out there looking to bring back airships as a sustainable means of transport for cargo. French company Flying Whales is working on an airship design that will allow the aircraft to load and unload up to 60 tons of cargo without ever having to land. It has some large investors including the Quebec government and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

“We are building a segment of the transport industry that doesn’t exist … that never existed,” said Romain Schalck, communications manager at Flying Whales, in an interview with CNBC.

Check out the video above to learn more about how airships propelled air travel and how they can get back to the skies.

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