Hopes that airships would one day fly Canada's northern skies were deflated Tuesday when Yellowknife's Discovery Air announced it has let its tentative deal to buy a fleet of hybrid airships expire.
In August 2011, Discovery Air announced it was working with British manufacturer Hybrid Air Vehicles Limited to design an airship that would work in Canada's North. The ships would use a combination of non-flammable helium and air propulsion to move up to 50 tonnes of cargo at speeds up to 185 km/h and could land on any flat surface.
The company had planned to buy 45 ships costing more than $40 million each.
Discovery Air said Tuesday it has let the deal expire because the airships are no longer what the company wants to invest in.
But that may not mean the end for airships in the North. Later this month, specialists from around the world will be meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, to discuss the future of hybrid airships and Hybrid Air Vehicles will be there.
University of Manitoba airship researcher Barry Prentice said Canada may have lost its chance at being the first to have this aviation innovation in favour of Alaska.
"Their need is the same as ours," he said. "They have lots of places that are difficult to get to. They have mining operations and there’s reason to do things. I’m not sure what has caused Discovery to make this decision. But the point is, the airships aren't stopping just because they've decided not to do something."