Financially strapped German airship developer Cargolifter announced Friday it has temporarily shelved plans to build its touted giant freight dirigible. The company also says it is about to run out of cash.
A dying dream: Cargolifter once hoped to carve out a niche for itself in the transport aircraft market with its prototype giant dirigible.
Cargolifter’s chief director, Carl von Gablenz, said on Friday he was planning layoffs, and that the Brandenburg-based company would shift its focus to the manufacture and sales of smaller transport balloons.
As many as 500 jobs are said to be on the line at the company, which has been plagued by financial problems for months now as it has developed the CL 160 blimp.
Earlier this month, Cargolifter struck a deal with U.S. aerospace giant Boeing for the joint development of "lighter-than-air" vehicles for use in the U.S. for commercial, security and "homeland defense" purposes.
But Cargolifter has been unable to secure government aid or a private round of financing to keep the CL 160 project afloat.
Friday’s news led to an eight percent decline in Cargolifter shares, which closed at 1.30 euro ($1.20), down from a high of 23 euro ($21).
Politicians long hoped that the Cargolifter project would provide a needed boost to the economy in the eastern state of Brandenburg. Government officials and Cargolifter executives heavily promoted the project both domestically and abroad.
Technically, the CL 160 is seen as the modern answer to the country’s famous zeppelins, which plied the German skies between Berlin and Lake Constance in the early part of the 20th century. A prototype craft is 260 meters long, 82 meters high, and requires 550,000 cubic centimeters of "lighter than air" helium gas in order to take flight.