Shropshire business hopes to fly with £330m airship deal

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A new business using a new generation of airships into inaccessible areas of the world has revealed its intention to buy 12 of the ships for 480 million dollars (£330m).

Straightline Aviation has been launched by Shropshire businessmen Mike Kendrick and Mark Dorey, and will be based at Halfpenny Green Airport near Bridgnorth.

They say they want to use a new generation of airships being built by American defence colossus Lockheed Martin to fly to remote parts of Africa, Canada and even China.

Now Lockheed Martin has revealed the company has sent a letter of intent outlining the scale of its plans, and is now finalising a deal for the aircraft.

"Lockheed Martin's Hybrid Airship represents a revolution in remote cargo delivery," said Rob Binns, chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin's reseller Hybrid Enterprises, which organises finance for such deals.

"Having an experienced team such as Straightline Aviation recognise the Hybrid Airship's potential by signing the letter of intent solidifies the demand for this new mode of transportation.

"We are honoured and excited to share this milestone with them."

Mr Kendrick and Mr Dorey formerly ran Richard Branson's Virgin airship and hot air balloons business, and Mr Kendrick has also worked with balloon pioneer Per Lindstrand in the past.

In two years' time the duo plan to have a fleet of four to six hybrid airships flying passengers and freight.

The ships are not expected to fly regularly over the West Midlands, but the global operation will be based at the airport in Bobbington.

"We are delighted to be first in line with this magnificent aircraft that is going to dramatically change the way cargo is moved around the world," said Mr Kendrick, who is the new company's chief executive. "The clear-cut economic and environmental advantages of these hybrids are attracting attention from a wide range of potential end users."

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