Strange Planes on the Horizon (hahaha)
How about “pod planes”? You’re familiar with intermodal transport, right? Container ships carry cargo across the ocean to a port, where they’re unloaded onto specially configured flatbed trucks. Then they’re loaded onto railcars for long distance travel before going back to a truck again to a warehouse, etc. Very fuel efficient. So how about cargo or even passenger pods for air travel‽ [in case you’re wondering, that’s an “interrobang” at the end of the sentence–a combination of an exclamation mark and a question mark. I, like others, see a place for it.]
Check out this article in CNN travel about Clip-Air, a company that is exploring the concept.
“Clip-Air is composed of two elements. There’s the flying component, including airframe, cockpit and engines. Then there’s the capsules, a number of detachable pods that can act as cabin or cargo hold, depending on the chosen configuration. The airframe is based on a flying-wing concept, reminiscent of a stealth bomber. Some may even find some similarities to the X-48, an experimental pilotless aircraft developed for NASA a decade ago.”
OK, sounds possible, but what of passenger pods? Here’s what the article says about that:
“Passengers might board a capsule at a local bus station and wake up in another city on the other side of the country, or planet, after a road, air and rail journey during which they didn’t leave their seat.
So what are the chances of this ever happening? Rather slim, according to Addison Schonland, founder of Airinsight, a consultancy providing market intelligence about the aviation industry.
“Although it may be brilliant from an engineering point of view, it is going to be very tough to make it work commercially,” Schonland says. “It would need to compete with proven and well-established technologies, and, frankly, it is dubious whether the market will be ready for such a radical new concept, even in the long term.
“In any case, if the concept is ever to take off, I would see it working for cargo first.”
How about electric planes?
Not one, but TWO articles about this topic. The first is the simple one, the second the more extensive. Let’s be clear, these will (at least initially and likely for the foreseeable future, be for short haul flights with limited passengers, like the proverbial puddle jumpers). Consider electric cars—the batteries are heavy, making an electric version of a gas-fueled vehicle much heavier. That’s a big hit on performance for an aircraft. So maybe hybrid planes will be the more sensible solution. Read all about it in this more comprehensive article. It explores many possibilities–none of which are for long-haul flights. Still, it could be an environmentally positive thing–no carbon emissions and no contrails.