It has been quiet since Canada's Aviation Capital Enterprises (ACE) announced in March 2011 that it had entered an exclusive agreement with Lockheed Martin to develop a hybrid airship. But on June 25, the FAA posted for public comment the proposed airworthiness design criteria for the Lockheed "model LMZ1M airship".
Concept: Lockheed Martin
The proposed criteria have been developed by Lockheed's Skunk Works because the only existing requirements for airship certification, the FAA's Airship Design Criteria (ADC) dating back to 1987, is "inadequate for an aircraft with the size and advanced features of the LMZ1M", the FAA says. The proposed "Hybrid Certification Criteria (HCC) for Transport Category Hybrid Airships" developed by Lockheed is dated January 2013.
ACE announced in 2011 it planned three variants of the hybrid aircraft, called the SkyTug, "ranging in size from 20 tons to several hundred tons." At that time the first aircraft was planned for delivery in 2012. According to the FAA's notice, Lockheed submitted an application for type certification of the LMZ1M "manned cargo-lifting hybrid airship" in March 2012. The notice says:
"The tri-lobed airship envelope has 1,285,000 cubic foot displacement incorporating four thrusters to allow thrust vectoring. Thrust vectoring and control surface motions are controlled through a vehicle management system using electronic fly-by-wire controls. Rather than conventional landing gear, the LMZ1M uses an air cushion landing system (ACLS) for landing and ground operations. The LMZ1M is a manned cargo-lifting hybrid airship with a gondola accommodating eight passengers and two crewmembers and a large cargo bay, and external load capabilities."
Given the size and weight of the LMZ1M, the FAA says, "the level of safety should be commensurate with other transport category aircraft". As a result, the certification criteria proposed by is based the existing ADC, Transport Airship Requirements (TAR) developed the Germany and the Netherlands (for the defunct Cargolifter airship) and dated March 2000, and Part 29 airworthiness standards for transport-category rotorcraft. The LMZ1M would be based on, but far larger than, the experimental P-791 (below) flown by Lockheed in 2006.
Photo: Lockheed Martin
If you want to comment on the proposed criteria, you have until July 25. Just go to www.regulations.gov and enter the docket number FAA-2013-0550. I just checked, and no-one has commented yet.