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Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck: “We need to transform aviation and we’re going to do so through Airships”

By Inge Serrano, Communication Manager at OceanSky Cruises. Photo: Carolin Forsberg

Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck, CEO and Founder at OceanSky Cruises, has that deep and honest look visionaries have when they believe that dreams can come true. He also has the ability to easily convince you of it. This pilot’s dream, who has been transporting passengers over the clouds at 900 kilometres per hour for over 18 years, is to reduce altitude and speed. He wants to be the pioneer of a new sustainable aviation era featuring large airships, through his company OceanSky Cruises.

Who is Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck?
I’m a person who embraces change. I always try to improve what surrounds me. I’m concerned about the way we use our natural resources. I love nature and it saddens me to see what we’re doing to our planet and I think it’s something that needs to be changed.

Do you remember your first plane trip?
My parents have always been linked to the world of aviation. My father was a manager in the cargo aviation sector, and my mother was an SAS stewardess during the golden age of airlines. I’ve practically flown since I was born. For me, going to the airport was equal to adventure.

What does flying mean to you?
More than being 10,000 metres above sea level, flying is looking out the window and seeing what lies below. The first time I had that “low flying” feeling was on a plane with a friend when I was 19 years old.

Why did you become a pilot?
I studied economics and logistics which is very useful for me when it comes to having a good foundation for business and project management. Then I was very lucky to enrol and be admitted to the only public pilot’s school in Sweden and that’s how I became a pilot.

What has been your best experience as a pilot?
The best thing about piloting for me, without a doubt, is taking off and landing because it allows you to see what’s underneath. These are moments of great concentration in which there is no margin for error, although I have never had the feeling that what I am doing is dangerous.
The best experience I remember was when I was studying to be a pilot,  we rented a few planes with some friends, and went to the north of Sweden to experience low flights, flights in fog. It was fun!

And some to forget?
Once, flying over the centre of Europe, the plane was loaded with static. I was young and I saw my captain worried, which did not reassure me. But now, after so many years flying, if it happened to me again, I would know perfectly what to do. 

What does Carl-Oscar do when he isn’t flying?
I love being in contact with nature. I have a boat and I usually spend a lot of my free time on it, sailing the lakes near Stockholm with my family and my little daughter. The sea has a very relaxing effect on me.

“I’m not a dreamer. For me, a dreamer dreams but fails to make his dreams come true. A visionary, on the other hand, is someone who executes those dreams, ideas or projects that he has envisioned”

You’ve been a commercial pilot for 18 years. How do you see yourself in the next 18 years?
I’ve never wanted to stop flying but, in the future I see myself developing a new era of aviation, much more sustainable than the current one.

Do you consider yourself a visionary or a dreamer? What is the difference for you?
I am not a dreamer. For me, a dreamer dreams but fails to make his dreams come true. A visionary, on the other hand, is someone who executes those dreams, ideas or projects that he has envisioned. I dreamed of having a boat, I bought it and now I’m reforming it little by little. Perseverance is essential for dreams to come true.

Who inspires you?
Elon Musk, no doubt. I believe that he’s a visionary who is doing things to change our present and our future based on values. He has been able to make a big difference in the sustainability industry, quickly and consistently.

How did the OceanSky Cruises project start to take shape?

In the 90s I began to be interested in lighter-than-air technology that allows moving large aircraft from one point to another supported by gas.

It already seemed to me at that time that it was something that could be very innovative for the aviation sector. It allows you to move goods or passengers from one place to another without needing large infrastructure such as airports.

In 2010, this interest was joined by a new one due to sustainability and the need to seek alternatives to fossil fuels, something that lighter-than-air technology allows. This is how the OceanSky Cruises project began, which wants to develop a new era of sustainable aviation through airships.

Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck began his project at OceanSky Cruises in 2010

What are the main advantages of an airship over an airplane?
For passengers, space and comfort are two of the main advantages. You fly at low altitude so the flight itself is already an experience. The speed is five times less than that of an airplane and allows you to travel from point to point without the need for airports to land or take off.

For example, if you want to travel from Madrid to Stockholm because you have a meeting in the morning, you will have to get up at least at 5 am to get to the airport with enough time, embark and arrive at your destination at 11 am tired and without having almost slept the previous night.

In an airship, you would embark in Madrid at dusk, have dinner and sleep on board, wake up, take a good shower and breakfast and arrive at your meeting fine!

Lawaczeck into the HAV flight simulator

Carl-Oscar Lawaczeck next to the Airlander airship in Bedford, England

And at the carbon footprint level?
An airship can travel the same path as an airplane while using 80% less energy. The airship is sustained by gas, the engines are much smaller than those of an airplane and much less powerful, with less horsepower.

Would airships then be a good alternative to electric aviation?
When we talk about electric aviation, I think there are still 25 or 30 years to develop batteries that are light and powerful enough to power the engines that an airplane needs to fly. Instead, airships are already there and I believe they may be the aircraft that will lead the new era of aviation for the next 50 years.

Are airships safe?
The accidents that we all remember of the great airships of the 1920s were mainly due to the fact that their structure, despite being gigantic, was very fragile. Today, 21st century airships are made of much more resistant materials and are lifted by helium, a non-flammable gas, unlike hydrogen which was used back then.

If we take a look back into the 20s during the last century, we are talking about a time when great ocean liners sank, trains often had accidents, cars were unsafe. In general, safety standards in the transport industry were very underdeveloped, unlike now.

The first flight is scheduled to fly over and land at the geographic North Pole in 2024, a feat that even Amundsen failed to accomplish a century ago aboard the Norge. How do you think the group of Pioneers will feel on that first flight?
We need to transform aviation and with this first expedition we’re going to show the world that it is possible to do so and, from there, work so that this new industry develops and grows with new routes and destinations. It’s going to be an epic journey.

“We need to transform aviation and, with this first expedition to the North Pole, we’re going to show the world that it is possible to do so and, from there, work so that this new industry develops and grows with new routes and destinations. It’s going to be an epic journey”

Lawaczeck wants to bring the great airships back to the future. Photo: Carolin Forsberg

Do you see the birth of airship airlines in the future?
Of course. If the world is willing to give up fossil fuels, this is the answer.

And do you see airships as the most luxurious way to travel in the future?
Sure! It’s the way we’ve started at OceanSky Cruises. We offer the market a technology that uses a level of comfort that has never been seen before in air transport. Being able to travel from point to point, to remote places, without the need of airports, enjoying the flight and the landscape with total immersion in the environment, surrounded by silence and calm will be the future of luxury travel.

Would you like to fly airships instead of airplanes in the future?
Of course! I am already working on obtaining an airship pilot licence. 

A trip that you would do again…
The best trips are those you do surrounded by people you love and who make any experience great. For me, the perfect trip consists of being on the sea, with the sun shining, warm water, a good meal… Sailing and visiting the fishing villages off the coast of Sweden or Croatia are amongst my favourite.

Something that you haven’t yet flown and would like to do…
Although I have flown in them, I have never flown a helicopter and I have yet to fly a glider. 

A hobby…
Sailing and being at sea

Your life changed the day…
My daughter Edith was born

You are a day or night person…
A night one, no doubt