Airships not just pie in sky

What do the U.S. Army and the Boeing Aircraft Company know that Yukon Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers and Premier Darrell Pasloski don't?

What do the U.S. Army and the Boeing Aircraft Company know that Yukon Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers and Premier Darrell Pasloski don’t?

They know that heavy-lift Hybrid Air Vehicles or HAVs are practical and they are investing in them big time.

Hybrid Air Vehicles are a modern redesign of the zeppelins that crossed the Atlantic in the 1920s and ‘30s. They combine lighter-than-air principles with helicopter rotors to create payload capacities of up to 80 tonnes. They can carry as much as two Hercules or two B-trains. That’s up to 112,000 litres of fuel to Old Crow or a main battle tank to an inaccessible war zone.

Or how about a couple of D8s to a remote mine in the Peel watershed? Or 80 tonnes of ore from the same site out to Mayo or the Dempster Highway? No landing strip needed. No roads into invaluable wilderness at $1 million a kilometre to build and $1 million a kilometre to restore. No road subsidies needed from reluctant (or angry) taxpayers. No bitter betrayal of the Yukon public over the Peel River watershed plan. No lawsuits over undermining the Umbrella Final Agreement and bad-faith participation in planning. Mining speculators will have no standing for compensation claims. And no more need for the Yukon government to contort public policy on behalf of industry.

Pie in the sky? Hardly. The U.S. Army has already commissioned its airships to be built. Boeing and its Canadian partner Skyhook will market their HAV within two years. Well-informed companies and governments from Labrador to Alaska to Siberia are planning now to incorporate HAVs into their operations.

“The federal government is showing no interest in building new all-weather roads – even maintaining existing infrastructure is getting too costly,” says Barry Prentice, a professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

“Any politician who isn’t willing to pursue airships is being negligent.”

This describes Cathers and Pasloski. Reckless, too, since they are precipitating a train wreck in public policy in support of an obsolete and unaffordable technology -“roads to resources.”

HAVs will transform northern transport in the same way that railroads reshaped North America in the 19th century and airplanes shrunk the globe in the 20th century. The Yukon Party government is doing their mining clients no favour by messing with the Peel plan by promoting roads that they cannot afford.

The Peel plan is the compromise for Yukon society – it is the Yukon government that is extremist. And it is needlessly shortsighted, too. The Peel plan and Hybrid Air Vehicle technology offer a practical way forward for miners, First Nations and environmentalists alike.

The Peel Watershed Planning Commission invested six years of study, public and industry consultation and expert analysis to arrive at a sound compromise. It is implausible that the Yukon Party cabinet will produce a better plan behind its closed doors. Or a legal one.

David Loeks, chairman

Peel Watershed Planning