Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 28 February 2014

Chariots of the Rock Gods

Some time ago, we reported that Bruce Dickinson was backing a project to build a modern-day airship.

Mainstream production came a step closer this week with the unveiling of the Airlander, a 92m long craft filled with enough helium to make the Treorchy Male Voice Choir sound like a chorus of gnats. The vehicle could provide an ingenious solution to the problems of moving heavy items in areas with no ground access or runways.

Dickinson himself has played an active part in the publicity, appearing on the Today programme where he memorably compared the Airlander to one of the Thunderbirds (to the secret delight, I imagine of a host of forty- and fifty-somethings). He now has plans for a non-stop trip twice round the world:
"It seizes my imagination. I want to get in this thing and fly it pole to pole."
Mine too. If there is anything that might serve as some consolation for this week's conspicuous lack of giant serpents, wrathful Norse Gods and supernatural wolves, it's the thought of Iron Maiden's lead singer cruising above our heads in something that looks like Thunderbird 2.


  1. Fascinating stuff - I hope it succeeds. There is something appealing about airships. It's probably nostalgia but appealing all the same.

  2. Good for Bruce! I'd love to see more airships. They were my favourite part of Alternate Earth in 'Fringe'.

  3. Just so long as it doesn't do an R101...

  4. Der Fliegande Rocker, cue loud Wagner music......

  5. AKH, I agree, there is a certain elegance about them even without the many practical advantages this design can offer.

    Sadly Evan Davies (and the Daily Mail) didn't see it, comparing its rear view to a large bottom.

    Julia, I also like Kim Stanley Robinson's idea in 'Red Mars' of using them as transport there - though they did have to anchor during high winds, something which may yet prove a problem in Earth's thicker atmosphere.

    Longrider, the legacy of R101 was presumably the length of time it has taken for someone to resume airship development - and perhaps, as we may yet find out, a certain reluctance on the part of the public to board one.

    Demetrius, definitely, though, given the lack of Götterdämmerung this weekend, perhaps we ought to settle for some heavy metal instead;
    "Run to the hills...."

  6. Actually, Longrider, thinking about it, there's a worrying coincidence in Bruce Dickinson's preoccupation with fire; not only does it make frequent appearances in Iron Maiden's repertoire, he has also claimed in a TV documentary to have a keen interest in spontaneous human combustion.


  7. This is not the Bumship, is it? Otherwise known as Two Cheeks?

  8. JH, if you insist, though I prefer to think of it as a latter-day version of Thor's Chariot (albeit powered by an engine rather than pulled by the goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr).