Story image

Bungy jumping from an airship over Queenstown could be a reality - one day

19 Jul 2018

Today’s airships look a lot different to the WWI balloons of yesteryear, but they could be on the verge of making a comeback, according to one Massey University School of Aviation lecturer.

Isaac Henderson says he has always been fascinated by airships and it may be possible to bring them back into the mainstream.

Ever since the 1937 Hindenburg disaster in 1937, airships got a bad name. Soon, aeroplanes took over and airships had disappeared.

Although they’re starting to reappear in the shipping and logistics sectors, they’ve not made a comeback in the consumer space.

Henderson notes that they can’t compete with the speed of aeroplanes,  but they do offer a number of other benefits.

“They are extremely fuel efficient, which means they are environmentally friendly and have a much lower cost base to operate,” he explains.

“They also have the luxury of space – you can build a luxurious cabin where people can eat and drink and walk around and, when you are looking at scenery, the slow speed is actually an advantage.”

“Just imagine being on a cruise ship but you are up in the air and you can see everything below you. It’s literally a ship in the sky – but it’s better and faster.”

He has been working on a master’s thesis to see if there’s demand for scenic airships in New Zealand – and there could be a market for it in Queenstown.

“I developed a methodology for testing new and radically different tourist products because I didn’t want to make any assumptions about people’s attitudes to airships.”

More than 500 people took part in his research and he found that people came up with some interesting feedback.

 “Early on, there were some really crazy things suggested in the focus groups that no researcher would ever have considered putting in a survey.”

“As airships are lighter than air, they can easily hover in one place, so some study participants asked why not bungy jump at 5000 feet and have all your friends watch you do it? I have to admit it really surprised me that over 30% of participants were willing to pay to do that.” 

He says people generally don’t view scenic airship services in the same vein as tourist businesses, but now there is a possible business case to make that a reality, and people are willing to pay for it.

While some research participants were concerned about airship safety, they understand that with approval from the CAA could help soothe those fears.

"Most participants said they would be comfortable flying in an airship if the operation was approved by the Civil Aviation Authority, which it would have to be anyway,” Henderson says.

“They also accepted that modern airships would be safer due to improvements in construction materials and control systems and the use of helium, which is not flammable, unlike hydrogen.”

WeRide demonstrates pre-commercial level 4 autonomous driving solutions
“Our demonstration of the Nissan LEAF 2 is a significant step forward in showing that WeRide can help bring reliable, safe autonomous vehicles to market."
IDC: Innovative wearable use cases drive double-digit growth
Wristbands are set to lose their dominance as hearables and industrial applications keep the wearables market moving forward.
Turtle Beach buys ROCCAT, bringing more 'victories to gamers'
Germany-based Roccat already has a significant presence in Europe and Asia, which means Turtle Beach will likely take advantage of that growth. Expect to see more Turtle Beach products on the shelves. 
NVIDIA introduces a new breed of high-performance workstations
“Data science is one of the fastest growing fields of computer science and impacts every industry."
Apple says its new iMacs are "pretty freaking powerful"
The company has chosen the tagline “Pretty. Freaking powerful” as the tagline – and it’s not too hard to see why.
Cloud providers increasingly jumping into gaming market
Aa number of major cloud service providers are uniquely placed to capitalise on the lucrative cloud gaming market.
NZ ISPs issue open letter to social media giants to discuss censorship
Content sharing platforms have a duty of care to proactively monitor for harmful content, act expeditiously to remove content which is flagged to them as illegal.
Partnership brings AI maths tutor to NZ schools
“AMY can understand why students make a mistake, and then teach them what they need straight away so they don't get stuck."