Straightline Aviation has made an agreement with Quest Rare Minerals to
provide dedicated air services for the transport of ore concentrate,
supplies and personnel using Lockheed Martin’s Hybrid Airships. The
airships will provide shuttle transportation between Quest’s Strange
Lake complex mine site in Northern Québec and Schefferville, a town with
a direct rail link to the Port of Sept-Iles.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), SLA will operate a fleet of
seven of the world’s first heavy-lift cargo Hybrid Airships, the LMH-1.
The airships will transport personnel, critical supplies for mine
operations, and carry more than 200,000 tonnes of rare earth ore
concentrate annually for delivery to Quest’s Bécancour refining
facilities. Rare earth metals are critical to hundreds of high tech
applications, many of which define our way of life and are key to the
emergence of green technologies.
Developed and built by Lockheed Martin, the LMH-1 is well suited to
Quest’s transportation challenges due to its remote northern Québec mine
site location. The airship has the ability to land on virtually any
surface including snow, ice, gravel and even water, with no runways
required or other expensive infrastructure. The helium-filled,
heavier-than-air airships can carry 20 metric tons of cargo and up to 19
passengers. Both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and
Transport Canada have agreed on the newly developed Hybrid Airship
certification criteria, which is being used to complete the type
certification. First commercial deliveries are scheduled in 2019.
Mike Kendrick, Chief Executive
Officer, Straightline said, “We are looking forward to working with
Quest, and believe that our Hybrid Airships will provide significant
benefits in reaching remote locations such as the Strange Lake complex.
Removing the need for expensive, intrusive infrastructure, it is a
significant step in re-defining the way transport works in remote
Pierre Lortie, Executive Chairman of the Board, Quest added, "Quest and
SLA make ideal partners – we are well positioned to fully leverage the
cost efficiencies and environmental advantages of the LMH-1, and are
truly excited to be among the first companies to implement such an
innovative transport solution.”
Hybrid Airships combine the technology of lighter than air aircraft with
airplanes, helicopters and hovercraft. Helium provides 80 percent of the
lift, while the remaining lift comes from the aerodynamic shape of the
aircraft and its four thrust vectoring engines. The airship also
features a unique hovercraft-like Air Cushion Landing System that
facilitates taxiing and grips the craft firmly on the ground.
The airships present a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly
solution to Quest’s transport challenges. The LMH-1 is not only designed
to use less fuel, emit less carbon dioxide and produce less noise than
conventional aircraft, it also eliminates the need for costly
ground-level infrastructure, avoiding impact on the area’s wildlife
habitat compared to road transport and trucking along a road corridor to
the Labrador Sea coast.
This new transportation solution will also stimulate employment and
business opportunities for regional and Indigenous communities
increasing the socio-economic benefits to the area around the mine site.
The service agreement represents a value of approximately US$ 850
million, including fuel costs, over a 10-year period that starts in
2019, with further extensions of up to 20 additional years in line with
the current projected life of the mine.
Binns, Chief Executive Officer, Hybrid Enterprises also noted, “Lockheed
Martin’s Hybrid Airship represents a revolution in remote cargo
delivery. The Quest Strange Lake Project is a prime example of how our
Hybrid Airship enables a cost effective and environmentally friendly
solution to accessing strategically important mineral deposits.”
Charles Bouchard, Chief Executive Lockheed Martin Canada commented, "I
am thrilled to see Lockheed Martin's advanced technology coming to the
province of Quebec and indeed being sought after to solve transportation
challenges in some of the most isolated and northern regions of Canada.
It is an ideal country to use the highly innovative Hybrid Airships and
I applaud the collaboration between Hybrid Enterprises, Straightline
Aviation and Quest Rare Minerals in pursuing such an
environmentally-friendly solution in Canada."