business pages

NNSL Photo/Graphic


Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Airships fuelled by lack of road extension

Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 9, 2011

In about three years, the Northern skies may be filled with air ships.

Discovery Air Inc. announced last month that a deal was signed between its subsidiary, Discovery Air Innovations, and British aircraft manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. for the purchase of helium-fuelled hybrid airships, capable of carrying 50 tonnes. The first of these aircraft is due to be delivered by 2014.

With a price tag of $40 million each, the airships have the ability to deliver cargo on land, water, ice and snow without the need of a runway. This ought to come as welcome news for resource development companies dealing with a lack of existing infrastructure in the North.

The airships are made all the more valuable due to the GNWT's lack of further investment in the winter road used to resupply the diamond mines and some exploration sites. The companies along that route wind up under pressure from sharply higher costs when mild winter weather shortens the life of the winter road by weeks.

Then, instead of transport trucks bringing in needed industrial supplies, airplanes are contracted to do the job, but at much higher prices.

The GNWT missed the boat by failing to extend the Ingraham Trail, the road to resources, under the premiership of Joe Handley.

There's close to 60 km of the route that should be upgraded to year-round use to alleviate the havoc that mild weather can cause.

Although much is still to be desired on ground level, Discovery Air is attempting to find a way assist the exploration industry while enhancing its own business opportunities -- and the North will be keen to watch the new approach to re-supplying remote industrial sites as the airships take to the skies.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.