Airship Cargoes | Flying Whales assures skeptics are easily confused

The airship cargo project, supported by Quebec in the amount of about 85 million, piloted by Flying Whales and considered unrealistic by some, does not leave indifferent. Skepticism will soon dissipate, according to the executive director of the company’s Quebec subsidiary, who argues taxpayers no longer need to ease their budgets.

Posted at 5:00 am

Julian Arsenal

Julian Arsenal
The press

Arnaud Thioulouse has been installed in Quebec since last May and is expecting a busy autumn. In addition to “putting the pedal to the metal” to determine the location that will house the Quebec assembly plant, he also hopes to formalize partnerships that validate the project’s raison d’être.

There was a foretaste on Tuesday at the Aéro Montréal International Aerospace Innovation Forum. Pratt & Whitney will be responsible for the design, manufacture and maintenance of turbines for the LCA60T airship’s electric propulsion system.

“Absolutely,” Mr. Thioulouse replies when asked if this is the type of agreement that adds credibility to cargo airships. We want to finalize our contracts with other partners for the main systems needed for development. »

These partners are Thales Canada (flight control systems) and Delastek (cockpit), two key players in Quebec’s aerospace cluster. In a sign that the deals should be finalized soon, these two companies shared the same platform as Mr Thioulouse on Tuesday.

Go far

Founded in France, Flying Whales aims to build cargo airships for transporting oversized loads – wind turbine blades, hydraulic turbines, mining equipment, etc. – up to 60 tons in hard-to-reach locations like the far north of Quebec. The aircraft will initially be equipped with hybrid propulsion, then fully electric.

First commercial flights are planned for 2025-2026 after building a manufacturing facility in Quebec. It would be the second such factory for Flying Whales to operate one in France.

“Today we signed a good thirty letters of intent with potential customers,” says the managing director of Flying Whales Quebec. We can turn them into contracts once the activity scheduling window is set. »


Arnaud Thioulouse, Managing Director of Flying Whales Quebec

Customers do not become owners of the airship. You pay for the transportation service. Flying Whales will also operate this component.

After its first investment in 2019, Legault’s government had reinvested 55 million in the French company’s share capital and that of its Quebec subsidiary as of June 30. This third round of financing was estimated at 122 million euros. The French State, the Principality of Monaco, ALIAD (the Air Liquide fund) and Groupe ADP are also shareholders.

This fundraising allows us to progress development through to first flight. A public offering is planned for the first flight to fund the development of activities.

Arnaud Thioulouse, Managing Director of Flying Whales Quebec

As such, Flying Whales will fund the remainder through the stock market and not from its current shareholders, according to the head of its Quebec subsidiary.

Still many steps

100 jobs are to be created in Quebec within three years. The Flying Whales Quebec team should triple in size over the next year to reach around 30 people.

This isn’t the first time the concept of a cargo airship has been proposed for transporting goods to remote regions, recalls Richard Aboulafia, general manager of AeroDynamic Advisory. The cargo niche has been popular since the pandemic began and fuel prices are high, the analyst adds.

If he thinks the game is worth the candle, however, he brings a downside.

“The problem is that we often talk about a one-way trip for a transport trip, which complicates the equation on the profitability side,” says Mr. Aboulafia.

The presence of Chinese in Flying Whales’ share capital has meant that the project to establish this subsidiary in the country has been delayed following a decision by Investment Canada.

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  • 2012
    Founding year of the Flying Whales

    Source: flying whales

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