The ongoing battle between Airbus’ A350 XWB and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is not the only competition in the aviation industry where composites are playing a prominent role. With Lockheed Martin’s recent announcement that it has received its first customer for its composite LMH-1 hybrid aircraft, it now poses serious competition to Hybrid Air Vehicles’ hybrid aircraft – the composite-intensive Airlander 10.

The purchase comes from Straightline Aviation (SLA), which signed a letter of intent to purchase up to 12 Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airships with a potential value of approximately $480 million.

“Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airship represents a revolution in remote cargo delivery,” said Rob Binns, chief executive officer of Hybrid Enterprises. “Having an experienced team such as SLA recognize the Hybrid Airship’s potential by signing the [letter of intent] solidifies the demand for this new mode of transportation.”

Side by side, the aircraft are very similar aside from their use of composites. Both roughly 300 feet long, 140 feet wide, and 85 feet tall. Both are designed to cruise at 70 to 90 miles an hour. Both can stay airborne for a week without being refueled. Both carry payloads weighing in the tens of tons. And both are environmentally friendly – low noise, low vibration, and fuel efficient.

According to Lockheed Martin, the company has invested more than 20 years to develop Hybrid Airship technology, prove its performance and ensure there are compelling economics for various markets who would benefit from using this platform. About eight years ago, the team built and flew the technology demonstrator known as the P-791, which successfully demonstrated all the technologies needed to make this real.  Like the original iteration of the Airlander 10 (the HAV-3), the P-791 was also designed as part of the U.S. Army’s Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) program, but lost the program’s competition to the HAV-3 design.

Since then, the team has completed all required FAA certification planning steps for a new class of aircraft and they are ready to begin construction of the first commercial model and the completion of the FAA Type certification process.