Dynalifter is part airship, part airplane and the spiritual and engineering successor to Howard Hughes’ never-built Megalifter. It combines the light weight and huge payload of an airship with the stability and handling of an airplane.
While a traditional airship is constantly buoyant, the Dynalifter uses lift from both helium and a short trip down the runway. Helium provides 30 to 80 percent of the lift, depending upon the circumstances, while internal combustion provides the rest.
“We don’t go for the hovering thing,” Bob Rist, co-founder of Ohio Airship, told Wired.com. “We come in like a regular airplane, we land like a regular airplane, we take off like a regular airplane.”
Two advantages of the unique design is it uses one-third as much fuel as a jetplane and it can land in short distances, Rist said.
“We’ve got some that can lift 200 tons and land in 4,000 feet,” he said.
After nearly a decade of work, a 117-foot prototype that looks like a whale could take to the skies sometime in the next few months.
“It looks like the funding should be coming in mid-January,” Rist said.
The prototype, built for $500,000 from donated parts, was damaged during a storm two years ago but rescued with economic development funding from Toledo and help from 15 volunteers.
“Some of the guys are laid off from Cessna, some of them are laid off from Jeep, so they came to work and helped us,” Rist said. The storm, Rist said, was a “blessing in disguise” because Ohio Airship ended up with a 36,000 square foot hangar and cut the aircraft’s weight by 500 pounds.
Rist’s team hasn’t yet flown the rebuilt prototype, which looks a bit flimsy, nor have they filled it with helium, but they plan to as soon as the funding is received. “We have put everything on a hold,” he said. “It’s completed with FAA certification but I haven’t flown it yet. ”
While the prototype is an ultralight aircraft capable of carrying two people and fuel, Rist said the production Dynalifter will be scaled up significantly. The goal is to offer ships up to 1,000 feet long with a cargo capacity of 250 tons.
“The customer is asking for a 600 foot version, one that can carry about 30 to 40 tons.”