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Is it an airship - is it a plane?

01/04/2006. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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Just 200 miles northeast of the Wright Brothers' Dayton home, two other Ohioans claim that they are the "right brothers" to influence the second century of aviation. Earlier this week, the two completed construction of a 120-ft, two-seat prototype of their Dynalifter hybrid airship/airplane concept at Alliance's Barber Airport.

According to Robert Rist and Brian Martin, Co-Founders of Ohio Airships, Inc., their prototype is ready for testing, but ideal weather conditions may still be months away. The two plan to squeeze testing in as weather permits and they hope to receive FAA experimental certification for their aircraft by mid to late spring of 2006.

The Dynalifter is a hybrid of winged airplane and helium airship (i.e. Goodyear Blimp). Robert Rist uses a biological analogy to describe the hybrid:

"Like breeding two organisms, combining an airplane with an airship produces an aircraft with traits from both parents. The Dynalifter retains the fuel efficiency and short runway capabilities from airships and the wind handling and heavy payload capabilities from airplanes. No aircraft in existence has all of these traits. In short, the offspring can be thought of as either an 'economical airplane' or a 'wind-tolerant airship'."

What does a Dynalifter hybrid airplane/airship do? According to Rist and Martin, it will transport goods at a lower cost than jets and at a higher speed than ships. In a developed nation like the United States, these market features are filled by trucks and trains. Martin contends however that most of the world and the world's population do not have access to trucks and trains, and that this is why they remain in an impoverished state.

"The reason for this is that they [underdeveloped nations] can afford the vehicles, but not the roads and rails that they need to travel on. People don't realize that a $100,000 semi-truck is traveling on a $1,000,000,000,000 highway network. Dynalifters of course do not require any roads other than short airstrips. This is what we refer to as 'Roadless Trucking', our ultimate vision for Dynalifter aircraft."

Domestically, OAI has learned that the US trucking and rail capacity is soon to be exceeded, potentially leading to an unprecedented backup in freight movement. Dynalifter Roadless Trucking could provide a national "Coronary Bypass" by instantly increasing the US's trucking bandwidth without incurring the prohibitive cost of expanding roads. There is a large gap in trans-oceanic transport as well. Trucks and trains are unable to travel over water leaving all freight transport to prohibitively expensive jets and prohibitively slow ships. A Dynalifter Roadless Trucking solution here could vastly expand trade between continents.

Rob Tkach, a commercial logistics expert and owner of Tkach Logistics LLC in Uniontown, OH had several comments regarding Dynalifter Roadless Trucking:

"It is exciting to see completion of the Dynalifter prototype. This technology provides a significant advancement for freight transportation and will help overcome many current and future shortcomings of our global freight transportation networks.

The Dynalifter Freighter creates new options for transportation of oversize cargo to remote points and areas lacking infrastructure. It will also create a new "mode" of transportation for transoceanic cargo; where today you have only ocean freight (cheap but slow) and airfreight (fast but costly), tomorrow you will have 'Dynafreight' as a middle option.

As we look to the future, the Dynalifter enables "Roadless Trucking" which can ease congestion and capacity issues of existing roadways with the added benefit of reduced emissions and fuel consumption. The Dynalifter leaves a very light environmental footprint.

With completion of the Dynalifter prototype, the people of Northeast Ohio have yet another thing to be proud of. Coupled with Goodyear's construction of a new blimp in Brimfield and Lockheed Martin's announcement that it will build a High Altitude Airship in Akron, Northeast Ohio is emerging as a birthplace of airships."

The US Military has their eye on Roadless Trucking as well. During wartime, they have an urgent need to build sustainable supply chains and cannot depend upon the existence of passable roads and bridges; especially when halfway around the world. Dynalifters could potentially take off from the United States, fly near a conflict, airdrop military hardware and supplies, and then return to a friendly base; without a need for aerial refueling. According to the two, the Dynalifter is currently the buzz inside the Pentagon and they hope to receive funding within the next several months. When asked to elaborate, Rist exclaimed, "That's all we're permitted to talk about at this time."

Dynalifter Roadless Trucking could have also built a military-like supply line in the Hurricane Katrina and Asian Tsunami disasters. In both cases, the roads, rails, and bridges were either destroyed or clogged. The large airstrips were congested with passenger aircraft, and the small airstrips were not capable of handling existing freight aircraft. According to Martin, "The relief supplies couldn't get in fast enough. If there was a FEMA-sponsored Roadless Trucking disaster relief system, we may have had an entirely different outcome."

So what is next? Rist told SFcrowsnest, "To safely test and fly the aircraft. After flying the prototype, the project will immediately take on a different feel. Many of the bigger investors and corporate entities who have been sitting on the fence will put this project on the fast-track. The prototype itself is not designed to carry freight, but rather to persuade the average businessperson that it [larger freighters] can be done. At one time or another everyone wonders 'what if I got in with Coke or Disney right before they hit it big?' This is what people are asking about us. Anyone who is seriously interested in investing should contact us."

Whatever happens, the two feel that they have already influenced the future of aviation and are keeping true to their Ohio roots. Between Dayton, Ohio being the birthplace of airplane flight, Akron, Ohio as the home of the Goodyear Zeppelins, and Suffield, Ohio as the home of the Goodyear Blimp, it seems as though the Dynalifter hybrid was meant to be born here.

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