Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has agreed the first stage of a contract for 10 of its 100-seater Airlander 10 aircraft with Spanish company Air Nostrum Group for delivery from 2026 onwards.
The four-engine craft, which is expected to fly on shorter domestic routes, will be about 320ft (98m) long and should produce “75 to 90 per cent fewer emissions than comparable aircraft”.
HAV is asking for £50m from the Government and the private sector to start production.
It has been looking at a number of sites in the Doncaster area for a large manufacturing facility, which will consist of multiple hangars in a field where the craft can be operated from.
The aircraft doesn’t need a runway and can also take off and land on water. Chief operating officer Nick Allman said: “There’s a four year process; we don’t actually have to have a hangar functional till a year and a half in. They will be flying in test in 2025.”
As well as 1,200 direct jobs by year five, there would be another 600 jobs in the supply chain.
HAV is in “advanced discussions” with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, Doncaster Council and other stakeholders on plans to manufacture the craft within a new green aerospace manufacturing cluster.
Air Nostrum’s President Carlos Bertomeu said the Airlander 10 would help reach de-carbonization targets. He said: “Sustainability, which is good news for everyone, is already a non-negotiable fact in the daily operations of commercial aviation.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added: “This agreement enhances the possibility of the revolutionary, British-made and designed, Airlander 10 aircraft flying across Spanish skies.
“It is more proof of how the UK’s businesses are embracing new technology to drive growth and support high skilled UK jobs.”
The craft bears a passing resemblance to historic Zeppelins, but unlike the hydrogen-filled aircraft of yore, its hull will be filled with inert helium.
The firm has been working with the Civil Aviation Authority for six years and the craft should be “as safe or safer than any other form of aircraft,” Mr Allman said.
They will be “nearly silent”, everybody will have an aisle seat, and although slower it'll be much more comfortable, “one where you can take a flight and not feel you are harming the planet.”
He said the agreement with Air Nostrium was "huge" - but also set the airline on a path to being "substantially greener than their competitors."
A previous prototype, which cost £32m, carried out six successful test flights, before being retired after breaking its moorings and self-deflating in November 2017.