The word “blimp” doesn't appear in any material from either Boeing Co. who is teaming with Calgary, Alberta Canada's privately owned SkyHook International Inc. to develop the JHL-40 (Jess Heavy Lifter) rotorcraft. However, the neutrally buoyant aircraft has a helium-filled envelope size that will support the vehicle's weight and fuel without a payload. As Boeing explains, “With the empty weight of the aircraft supported by the envelope, the lift generated by four rotors is dedicated solely to lifting the payload, leaving the aircraft neutrally buoyant.” The aircraft will be able to lift a 40-ton sling load and transport it as far as 200 miles without refueling.
The JHL-40's initial use will be for industries such as energy, mining and logging, and particularly, for environments like those found in Arctic Canada and Alaska. Present conventional land and water transport to these areas is characterized as being, “inadequate, unreliable and costly.”
Boeing is designing the JHL-40 and will manufacture two production prototypes of the aircraft at its Rotorcraft Systems facility in Ridley Park, PA. Skyhook will own, maintain, operate and service all JHL-40 aircraft for customers worldwide. “There is a definite need for this technology,” says Pete Jess, SkyHook president and chief operating officer. “The list of customers waiting for SkyHook's services is extensive, and they enthusiastically support the development of the JHL-40. Companies have suggested this new technology will enable them to modify their current operational strategy and begin working much sooner on projects that were thought to be 15 to 20 years away. This Boeing-SkyHook technology represents an environmentally acceptable solution for these companies' heavy-lift short-haul challenges, and it's the only way many projects will be able to progress economically.”
The JHL-40 will begin commercial service as soon as Transport Canada and the US Federal Aviation Administration certify it.