As price of fuel soars, so does a dirigible renaissance?

Snip from an article in today's New York Times about a slew of designers and firms developing new models of airships. These passenger-carrying aircraft float on the wind, rather than being propelled solely by fuel (more precise explanation here). And, ah, hopefully they don't blow up in the sky or whatever.

As the cost of fuel soars and the pressure mounts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, several schemes for a new generation of airship are being considered by governments and private companies. "It's a romantic project," said Mr. Massaud, 45, sitting amid furniture designs in his Paris studio, "but then look at Jules Verne."

It has been more than 70 years since the giant Hindenburg zeppelin exploded in a spectacular fireball over Lakehurst, N.J., killing 36 crew members and passengers, abruptly ending an earlier age of airships. But because of new materials and sophisticated means of propulsion, a diverse cast of entrepreneurs is taking another look at the behemoths of the air.

Mr. Massaud, a designer of hotels in California and a stadium in Mexico, has not ironed out the technical details, nor has he found financiers or corporate backers for his project — to create a 690-foot zeppelin shaped like a whale, with a luxury hotel attached, that he has named Manned Cloud.

And, heh, my favorite quote here:

"A dirigible is something magical," said Jérôme Giacomoni, who was 25 when he founded Aerophile with a friend. "But most of the ideas are crazy."

Why Fly When You Can Float? [NYT]
Image: Jean-Marie Massaud.

Update: most LOLlable comment in this thread, #4 posted by Chris the Tiki guy…

[I]f they're exploring whale shapes, why not other aquatic creatures, like the seacow? That way people can point and say "Oh, the huge manatee!" (…) [I]f Helium is in short supply, I doubt we'll be launching very many lighter-than-air craft any time soon, unless we can figure out how to make hydrogen just as buoyant but less explode-y.

Image: found floating (snort) around on the internet, provenance unknown Something Awful Dot Com's Photoshop Phriday.