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A German company is preparing to launch a fleet of airships to lift and transport loads of up to 160t. The construction industry could be a major market for these 'sky-hooks' but owner Cargolifter cannot use any of its helium filled crane-transporters to build the giant £48M steel frame hangar at Brand, 60km south of Berlin. The 360m long, 210m wide structure with 107m high arches is needed to construct the 260m long airships. A consortium of firms is building the hangar including Hochtief and US fabric structures specialist Birdair. Work began in 1998 and is due to finish at the end of this year. The firm, led by entrepreneur, lawyer and logistics professor Dr Carl von Gablenz, hopes to turn out four airships a year to create a 50-strong fleet. On-board crane mechanisms will be able to winch loads from the point of production and deliver to the point of use without complex interchanges at airports and harbours. A 30m long experimental model has been flying since October last year but bigger airships are planned.

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