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Cargo Airships, New Wave of Alaska Aviation

July 14, 2013|By Garrett Turner | Channel 2 News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — There's a new wave of aviation trying to gain momentum in Alaska.

This week, the Department of Transportation sponsored a three-day workshop where industry and business leaders met to discuss the possibility of cargo airships in Alaska.

"Distances becomes a tyranny unless you can afford to spend the money to build ground transportation systems everywhere you want to go," said the workshop's technical chairman Ron Hochstetler.

Villages all across Alaska rely on airstrips for cargo planes to land on to get any types of supplies, but some villages can't afford an airstrip, or there isn't room for one. These are the reasons airship technology could be the new wave for Alaska aviation.

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"The expansion of cargo aviation in Alaska can't continue to depend upon building more and more runways and airstrips where you want to take things into," Hochstetler said. "It becomes expensive and untenable from an economic and environmental perspective."

The airship runs off of helium and only needs an engine to fly forward. The airship's operations requires less of an infrastructure than normal air cargo planes and it is environmentally friendly.

Alan Larson co-owns a air cargo company called TransNorthern Aviation. Larson says he could see himself using an airship in the future but it all depends on one thing.

"The primary thing is cost, obviously," Larson said. "We're certainly interested in any kind of machine that would make a better product for the consumers up here.

Experts say airships can offer a better product at a lower cost that requires less of an infrastructure. Hochstetler says the technology is available, but now it's up to Alaskans to bring the airship to the state.

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