Two former co-workers and friends who started Ohio Airships Inc. in 1999 are putting a lot of time, effort and money into a business concept they hope will fly. Brian Martin and Robert Rist think they are close to testing a prototype of their patented Dynalifter hybrid.

They announced last week that their airship — part blimp and part airplane — has been completed, and they hope to conduct a test flight this spring.

The vehicle is stored in a plastic-sheeted hut near a cornfield in Lexington Township, about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland.

“Edison tried his light bulb a thousand times. I don’t want to do this (prototype) a thousand times,” Martin said.

The 120-foot-long, two-seat aircraft has a nylon cover over the patented interior structure.

It will get lift from 16,500 cubic feet of helium and two small ultralight engines. Martin said he and his partner have raised and spent $500,000 to get this far on the Dynalifter.

Most of the money went to feasibility studies and engineering work.

“We’ve done everything on paper and everything on a computer and everything in a wind tunnel that you can do,” Martin said.

Martin and Rist hope the Dynalifter will help bring in a new transportation era. They see it as a way to move materials at a lower cost than jets and at a higher speed than ships. They think it could be used in emergency situations, such as Hurricane Katrina, to transport supplies.

It might have military uses, such as delivering equipment and supplies to sites that might not be easily reachable. Martin said he and Rist have had meetings with Pentagon officials.

Their prototype is about one-eighth the size of their plan for a 990-foot-long Dynalifter Heavy Freighter. They also have plans for a smaller version at 761 feet.

The two met while working at Mount Union College’s computer department. They don’t have an aeronautical background. But what they do have, Martin said, is a willingness to experiment.

“The Wright Brothers did it, too,” he said.

A test pilot, Forrest Barber, will be seated in an exposed cockpit under the belly of the Dynalifter when the test is conducted.

“It will be quite an experience,” he said.

The Web site www.myairship.com keeps tabs on the airship industry and lists 25 active manufacturers and 12 companies, including Ohio Airships, in the design and construction phase.

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