Evidence of meeting #35 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was airships.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Thank you.

On the issue of regulations, you've said there are no pilot training rules right now in Canada for airships, or they're related to hot air balloons...?

9:40 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

That's right. Under the Canadian aviation regulations, or the CARs, as they're referred to, there is no such thing as an airship pilot's licence. What you have is a rating on a hot air balloon licence. A hot air balloon, as we know, has no engines, and an airship has no gas burner that you're pumping. The gauges on a hot air balloon are for the altitude and the temperature in the bag.

An airship has a whole panoply of gauges, like an aircraft, and it has pumps and valves and pressures and a whole—

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

It sounds like a different species.

9:40 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

It is the difference between an auto mechanic and an engineer.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

We're getting into this deeply, but I'm sorry, you're out of time.

Mr. Watson.

May 8th, 2012 / 9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to our witnesses for appearing here today.

This is a new and novel topic for me. I know virtually next to nothing in regard to airships, so I may ask some very basic questions to get them onto the record, both for my understanding and for that of anyone else who is reading this.

I'm getting some sense of it. Some of my questions may have been answered along the way, but how versatile is the current technology for airships? Are there weather restrictions? I don't know...do they run on any kinds of fuels at all? I don't understand the technology, so if you could walk us in a layman's way through the technology and its capabilities, that might give us some understanding of how it can be used.

9:45 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

Right. Let me deal first of all with the question of weather, because in Canada we always like to talk about the weather—we have a lot of it.

We have a very fierce winter, and the airships that exist today are basically fair-weather flyers, so they would fly in summer, spring, and fall. It doesn't mean they cannot fly in the winter. In fact, the very first vehicle to cross the North Pole was an airship. The Italian airship Norge flew there.

However, there has been no demand for advertising blimps or surveillance blimps in the north, so now the companies have designed their airships to live in 20 degrees or 30 degrees below centigrade, which is what we have to deal with. It can be done.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Or minus 50 degrees in Iqaluit.

9:45 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

Or minus 50 degrees or worse.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

It was that way in January when I was there.

9:45 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

So we have to adapt the technology for Canadian conditions. It can be done.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Are there any northern countries that are approving the idea of the airship cargo transport and hangars that you talk about? Is there any international example—with a northern climate—that we can point to?

9:45 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

Yes—Russia. The Russian RosAeroSystems have an airship and they have flown it in the wintertime. That's a government-owned project, really, out of the military of Russia, from what I understand. I don't know that much about it.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

They're not using it for sort of commercial applications.

9:45 a.m.

President, ISO Polar

Dr. Barry Prentice

No, they are not using it for freight. They've used it for surveillance and for looking at the hydro lines and so on, but they have not invested heavily in using this. Although they have a problem in Siberia that's very similar to our problem in the north, and they are probably the closest.... But they've shown that airships will fly year-round. It's just that they haven't done that much work with the cargo.