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Blimp proposed as means to ferry folks over lava flow

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    Russell Ruderman

HILO » A Hilo attorney has proposed using a helium-filled airship to ferry passengers over active lava if molten rock from Kilauea Volcano crosses Puna’s highway, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday.

A gondola attached to a buoyant ship called a SkyFlyer would carry about 25 passengers at a time over the lava, Steve Strauss told the Tribune-Herald. Each trip would take about five minutes and cost about $15 one way.

Strauss has registered a company called Lava Ferry LLC for the project.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman says he fully supports the idea and is excited by it. "I believe the project is legit and the technology is legit. Whether it will happen here or not is certainly yet to be seen," said Ruderman (D, Puna).

The $15 cost to ride the airship would be the same as the extra fuel costs people would need to pay to take a roundabout alternate route being built through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, he said.

Tourists seeking an opportunity to look at the lava from about 500 feet skyward would be charged twice the resident rate, Strauss said.

It will take about $4 million to get the project going, Strauss said, and he’s seeking private investors and possible government grants.

Strauss has negotiated exclusive rights to use aerostat technology developed by Lindstrand Technologies for the airship. The company is an English engineering firm headed by Swedish aeronautical engineer and pilot Per Lind­strand.

The lava ferry could be moved and used primarily as a tourist attraction if the highway is restored quickly, Strauss said.

A spokesman for Mayor Billy Kenoi said neither the mayor nor county Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oli­veira had been approached about the project.

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