““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Meet me in the Library-at 12,000 feet
For those who feel a pang of envy while gazing up at the blimps hovering over major sporting events, Worldwide Aeros may have the cure. Harkening back to a form of passenger travel last seen in the 1930s, the California manufacturer best known for its airships and tethered balloons has released plans for a luxury "air yacht" to be called the Aeroscraft ML866.
This heavier-than-air vehicle, based on technology developed for a now-canceled Department of Defense program, will have an expected range of 3,100 miles, enough to fly across the transcontinental U.S. east or west, as long as the wind is favorable. It will command a hefty price tag-"about as much as a Gulfstream V," according to Edward Pevzner at Worldwide Aeros. [Used GVs are currently selling in the $30 million to $40 million range. Used G550s are selling for up to $55 million, which is higher than the list price for a new G550.-Ed.]
For that money, you'll get much more living space than the average business jet offers, including staterooms, a dining room, even an office or library, said Pevzner. The aircraft's overall length of 210 feet means you'll need a fairly large open area for ground operations. But thanks to the Aeroscraft's near vertical takeoff-and-landing ability, it won't be tied to existing airports, allowing greater flexibility.
The vehicle won't outshine business jets in at least one crucial way, however: it will have a cruising speed of only about 120 miles per hour. Worldwide Aeros must hope its customers embrace that old clichй about how getting there is half the fun. And who knows? There just might be an untapped market for leisurely cross-country flights in a luxury air yacht. The company expects to have a prototype ready for certification testing in 2010.