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Airships in history and fiction capture our imaginations. Could they have a real-world role to play?

(Photo by Andrew Geraci/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Getty Images North America
A U.S. Navy MZ-3A manned airship, Advanced Airship Flying Laboratory, derived from the commercial A-170 series blimp lands at Lake Front Airport on July 8, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to provide logistical support for the Deepwater Unified Command and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Coast Guard requested the support of the Navy vehicle to help detect oil, direct skimming vessels and look for wildlife that may be threatened by oil.
Hybrid Air Vehicles
Hybrid Air Vehicle's Airlander 10 prototype in flight in 2016.

There's something almost romantic about airships--from zeppelins to dirigibles to little Goodyear Blimps. The image of a giant, floating aircraft feels both nostalgic and futuristic. In the early 20th century, airships were on the leading edge of aviation; today, they mostly live on in the domain of steampunk art and speculative fiction.
But a number of companies are betting they can bring airships out of the history books and into modern real-world applications like cargo transport and military uses.

This hour, we talk with speculative fiction author Ken Liu, as well as a journalist and the leader of a modern hybrid airship company about airships, real and imagined.


  • Ken Liu - Speculative fiction author and futurist, the author of the Dandelion Dynasty, an epic fantasy featuring airships
  • Jeanne Marie Laskas - Journalist; she wrote a piece for The New Yorker in 2016 on modern airships
  • Nick Allman - Chief Operating Officer of Hybrid Air Vehicles

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe, Jonathan McNicol, and Cat Pastor contributed to this show.

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Carmen Baskauf was a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show Where We Live, hosted by Lucy Nalpathanchil from 2017-2021. She has also contributed to The Colin McEnroe Show.
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