The Greatest Slow?

posted on 9th October 2018

UK-based consultancy Design Q has been working with Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), manufacturer of the Airlander 10 hybrid aircraft, to create a new concept in luxury travel. Combining aerodynamic and buoyant lift with thrust vectoring, the Airlander 10 is unique. Currently operating out of the famous airship sheds at Cardington near Bedford, UK, the Airlander 10 is vast – it’s the world’s largest aircraft. It also has an extremely long endurance – up to five days. This is good, because the Airlander 10 is very slow…

The aircraft has obvious potential applications in luxury experience travel, non-urgent freight transportation, survey, communications relay and other specialist missions, and it’s also inherently developable. HAV has designed the Airlander 10 for a 10-tonne payload but says it could ultimately build an aircraft capable of lifting 1,000 tonnes. For now, though, slow, luxury travel, where the journey is a series of experiences and just as important as arriving, was the inspiration for Design Q to create what CEO Howard Guy terms a ‘stateroom for the sky’.

In a previous era of air travel, the Airlander 10’s cabin may have been termed a gondola. Nestling in the aircraft’s belly, it appears narrow and awkward, but that’s an illusion created by the Airlander 10’s bulk. In fact, at 46m, it’s longer than an Airbus A321, providing Design Q with an expansive canvas in which to create bespoke features including a Royal Suite for the ultimate honeymoon, multiple Private Horizon Suites, an extensive Infinity Suite offering unrivalled comfort, and the Altitude Bar. And thanks to its extensive glazing and the aircraft’s slow speed, the horizon-to-horizon views on offer are unprecedented.

 

Before Airlander 10

Guy and his business partner began their design careers in the studios of automotive manufacturer Jaguar. He reckons: “We spent much of the last 20 years using our automotive skills to bring new concepts and levels of luxury to the jet world.

“Our breakthrough was designing Virgin Atlantic’s revolutionary Upper Class cabin back in 2003. Subsequent work with major carriers triggered a long and fruitful relationship with Bombardier, beginning with the design of their Global flight deck in 2005. That project set new standards for cockpit comfort as we integrated high-end industrial design. We went on to collaborate on the Challenger 350 in 2012. More recently, Aerion commissioned Design Q to work on its supersonic AS2.”

With its AS2 involvement, Design Q finds itself involved in defining not only the world’s fastest VIP aircraft but also, potentially, its slowest, presenting an interesting and very different set of challenges. “We love doing different things,” Guy says. “We have a fantastic team of young designers who never cease to surprise me with their ideas and creativity. They relish the opportunity to do something no one has done before, to imagine a new concept and then get into the detailed design of what a space will be.

“Design Q has particular expertise in luxury product design and we applied it carefully to the Airlander 10 concept. Luxury is about nurturing the senses, providing delight by thoughtful touches down to the tiniest detail. The high-end materials, colours and finishes convey excellence, while the real wood flooring and Tai Ping silk carpets lift the interior to a class of its own. The sofas, generous in proportion for total relaxation and with the unique ability to rotate, allow perfect outward vision through the massive panoramic windows, or turn easily to face inwards for evening social events.”

Guy reckons a typical Airlander 10 customer will be “…a discerning private individual who has enjoyed their jet and private yacht for many years, but is looking for something new and different, something that will give them and their guests unique access to remote parts of the world and that enables truly amazing views of our planet. We envisage luxury travel companies will be equally keen to offer their distinguished clients this unique experience. And we believe Airlander 10’s modularity will offer the flexibility such bespoke travel companies need.”

The Airlander 10/Design Q concept debuted at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow. So, what’s next? A tight-lipped Guy reveals: “We’re working closely with the Airlander engineering team on finalising the production design. We anticipate having further exciting news in the next few months…”