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The Varialift Airships giant airship adventure stops before takeoff in Châteaudun

A giant of the air which does not need a gigantic hangar, which resists all weathers, all temperatures and is ecological. (©Varialift Airships)

In 2017, Varialift Airshipsa British company specializing in particular in aeronautics, put down its suitcases at the gates of Châteaudun (Eure-et-Loir) on an old Army industrial wastelandEtamat (Establishment of Army equipment), at La Chapelle-du-Noyer.

Seduced by these dozens of abandoned hectares, she saw a unique opportunity to develop and launch a slightly crazy project, that of bringing up to date airship transport with a unique, ecological technology. But the adventure will end soon, in Châteaudun in any case, for lack of being able to release a prototype in time because their occupancy agreement ends at the beginning of August. Explanations.

Revolutionary technology

Ernesto Soria, Business Director does not hide his bitterness because the project was well underway.
Ernesto Soria, Business Director does not hide his bitterness because the project was well underway. (©Laurent Rebours)

In May 2021, the Business Director of Varialift manufacturing Ernesto Soria, still hoped that the very last straight line of their project would finally manage to take place without pitfalls with, in sight, the presentation of a prototype of this jumbo of the air likely to become the company’s showcase.

Varialift Airships is the project of a passionate and visionary industrialist, Alan Handley. Bring up to date those giants of the airthe airships, which came to a halt with the Hindenburg disaster before being recreated here and there, in a more confidential way.

Alan Handley knowingly wanted a disruptive technology with a completely aluminum structure, helium tanks, airships that land on the ground like a helicopter, that do not require gigantic hangars, that are capable of going to the most remote places on the planet and everything this with zero carbon emissions.

Châteaudun the ideal site

Hectares of wasteland abandoned for twenty-five years had been rehabilitated to accommodate the enormous aluminum skeleton, as light as it was resistant.
Hectares of wasteland abandoned for twenty-five years had been rehabilitated to accommodate the enormous aluminum skeleton, as light as it was resistant. (©Laurent Rebours)

The company was particularly seduced by Châteaudun, by this industrial wasteland of several hectares invaded by brambles and brushwood and whose partial restoration work was considerable.

But the occupancy agreement for this site has apparently come to an end (we have not been able to get any communication from the prefectural authorities on this file or from the Grand Châteaudun) as our colleague points out. Republican Echo.

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A convention that should not be renewed and the administration should recover the site.

If we had to leave, it would be the end of the adventure in Châteaudun anyway. Our business is something long-term, we were very affected by the Covid-19 crisis, we no longer had a workforce. Personally, I think it’s extremely unfortunate that it ends there, like that.

Ernesto SoriaVarialift Manufacturing Business Director

A prototype project already well advanced

These helium balloons remained inflated for months without loss.
These helium balloons remained inflated for months without loss. (©Laurent Rebours)

The Business Director notes that the prototype project was already quite advanced before being abruptly stopped by the global pandemic for months.

To restart the machine, they had launched crowdfunding to invite all those who believed in the project and this industrial adventure to follow them, but that was not enough.

On the hectares occupied by the company, warehouses had been cleaned, a huge gantry installed to accommodate the aluminum frame, the whole had also been brought up to standard and secured.

We would like to understand because these places were an industrial wasteland, we invested a lot to make it accessible and usable, around 1.5 million euros. Hopefully it’s not just to reclaim land.

Ernesto Soria

At Varialift we find this decision “brutal”, falling like a cleaver “when we would have been given two more years we could have relaunched the project. It’s obviously that Mr Handley would have hoped it would have gone a lot faster, we wouldn’t have had this pandemic and we would have been supported we could come out with something big ‘.

Misunderstanding all the greater as the Etamat wasteland was abandoned for twenty-five years “and when we show the places as we were asked, the companies that come find it too old and unusable, everything must be destroyed“.

Finally, misunderstanding because this project fits, in his eyes, totally in the economic and industrial evolution of Châteaudun, in full boom.

So suddenly it is possible that we find these giants of the air in another place, in France or abroad.

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