Massive electric airship prototype to take flight over Bay Area skies as it undergoes testing

Lauren Martinez Image
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Massive electric airship prototype to take flight over Bay Area skies
Soon if you look up in the South Bay, you may see the Pathfinder 1, an enormous 400-foot-long electric airship that "looks like a Goodyear blimp on steroids."

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- The news is out about a massive airship getting ready to take flight over the Bay Area.

Aviation analyst John Nance said ever since the end of World War II, there's been talk about various companies wanting to get into building airships.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin's company LTA Research, which stands for 'Lighter than air', is behind a prototype electric airship which currently sits inside the hangar 1 at Moffett Field in Mountain View.

"Well first I'm glad to see the hangar at Moffett being used for something other than just air because those are historic and very important, I think," Nance said. "Secondly, I'm delighted to see somebody working diligently on another rigid airship this thing looks like a Goodyear blimp on steroids."

It's actually double the size of the Goodyear blimp. Its name is Pathfinder 1 and it is 400 feet long and 66 feet wide.

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"We are in a revolution in aviation aerospace and always going into electric as fast as we can and going to different type of vehicles that are more like drones that are unlike helicopters in terms of what you see and hear," Nance said.

The Pathfinder 1 has 12 electric motors, computerized flight control and 13 helium bags to provide lift.

"The size of this alone tells me there's new technology involved in terms of the structure," Nance said. "This is not a Hindenburg, not only in terms of using helium instead of flammable hydrogen but also in terms of using carbon technology as much as possible to keep the weight of the very structure down."

Just last week Pathfinder 1 began outdoor testing.

In the coming weeks, South Bay residents could see it take flight too.

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LTA Research released this statement to ABC7.

In the coming months, Pathfinder 1 will undergo both masted and free-flight testing at Moffett Federal Airfield, led by our team of certified airship pilots and experienced ground crew. Flight testing is a critical part of safely operating and flying the next generation of airships and will bring us a step closer to realizing our vision for complementing humanitarian aid and reducing the carbon footprint of aviation.

"My son is a Commander down there and a C-130 pilot so I've had the chance to tour the base and see that big hangar and was even told recently something sneaky is going on in there. Glad to find out what it is," Nance said.

LTA says their mission is to speed up humanitarian aid.

Airships don't require airstrips or landing zones so they can deliver food, supplies and other relief to disaster areas.

The hope is they can reduce the carbon footprint of aviation in the future.

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