back to article Airbus predicts catapult takeoffs and formation flying by 2050

Airbus has detailed its plans for the future of air travel in 2050, when megacities and rising fuel costs will make flying a very different kettle of (flying) fish. The company's "Smarter Skies" report has been two years in the making, using interviews within the aviation industry and with designers to come up with radical new …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Tom 35


    More like a fairy tail I think.

    To be a plan you need to have a good idea how you are going to do it.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Plans?

      They seemed fairly conservative to me. As the article notes, most of them have already been done either by military craft or in cases of crisis. The main unproven suggestions are in the materials and airframe and I think it is quite laughable to suggest that we'll still be using rigid lumps of metal in high-performance applications in 40 years time. Materials science has come on quite along way since the 70s you know.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Plans? Ken Hagan

        Really? Are there self growing and repairing organic aircraft parts?

        The rest of the stuff might be a good idea and practical (like the catapult). Not sure about the pie in the sky ideas though.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Plans? Ken Hagan

          "Are there self growing and repairing organic aircraft parts?"

          As I said, the main unproven suggestions are in the materials and airframe. However, medical researchers people are working with growing biological structures (with desirable properties) over micro-frameworks (which are easier to make and more robust) so even there I think it would be sticking your neck out a bit to say definitely that self-repairing composites won't happen.

        2. Chandy

          Re: Plans? Ken Hagan

          @TechnicalBen there are already self-repairing plastics, so I don't see why not.


          Keep up man.

        3. Some Beggar

          Re: Plans? Ken Hagan


          Plastics from plants and self-cleaning fabrics already exist. I'm really not sure why the suggestion that they could be used in aircraft qualifies as "pie in the sky" or warrants a facepalm icon.

      2. IO-IO

        Re: Plans?

        considering how long commercial jet aircraft have been going, there has been rather modest changes in aircraft design and materials.

        40 years isn't a long time so it's highly unlikelty that we will see a quantum shift in what constitutes an aircraft.

        It takes a manufacturer almost a decade to design, test and deliver a new aircraft.

        With safety restrictions and processes it is next to impossible to deliver on this vision.

        Getting airports to support a double decker aircraft took forever what are the chances of getting catapults working in a short timeframe.

        Expect evolution not revolution.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Plans?

      Fairies don't have tails. I think you're confusing them with unicorns.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Plans?

        Yeah, well, whenever I want to confuse a fairy, a unicorn would be my choice, too.

      2. Oninoshiko

        Re: Plans?

        "Whether fairies have tails or not, or whether they even exist, nobody knows for sure. So it's like an eternal mystery, an eternal adventure."

        -- Master Markov, Fairy Tail

        (where is the "I really wanted an anime quote" icon?)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Catapults are designed

      To get aircraft up in a very short length of runway by rapidly increasing the speed to the speed necessary for the aircraft wings to develop lift.

      If you have a catapult that does this gently you might as well use the whole length of the runway.

      If any of you have flown a glider and taken off by a cable launch you will know it is fun but not comfortable.

      A good friend of mine left his lunch, tomato soup, sandwiches, tea all over the inside of the canopy after one such episode.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Catapults are designed

        Another reason this is crap is that non-powered jet landings preclude the use of thrust-reversal, again making for longer runways.

        One wonders if any of the folks involved in the paper are actually pilots. Methinks not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Catapults are designed

          Yes, and don't they usually make a big mess of the grass as well especially if there's no power to get the undercarriage extended as well :P

        2. Gerhard den Hollander

          Re: Catapults are designed

          If they can use catapults,

          Im sure they can use a tail hook, and some elastic cables

      2. MrT

        Re: Catapults are designed

        I've done that - the club used a Merlin (IIRC) to shift the gliders airborne, which is kind of ironic.

        The most unnerving thing about the launches weren't leaving your stomach behind but seeing the glider wings bend up into a U shape against the winch pull then feel the plane jump up about 50m as the cable released. Definitely quicker than a towed launch though...

      3. Fibbles

        Re: Catapults are designed

        You're missing the point of catapults here, forget shorter runways. Aircraft use much more fuel at ground level than they do when cruising, even more so during take off. If you can offload some of the power required during take off to a catapult then the actual plane can carry less fuel which in turn makes it lighter and more efficient.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Catapults are designed

          @Mr t

          The most unnerving thing about the launches weren't leaving your stomach behind but seeing the glider wings bend up into a U shape..

          Cheer up, you'll see the same effect on the new B787 Dreamliner with it's plastic wing. It's a strange sensation to walk out the wing of a Boeing 747 knowing that the wing is holding up two 8,000Lb engines but that my relatively feeble 14 stone is making the wing move up and down as I walk on it. People underestimate how flexible aircraft structures are.


          You're right Specific Fuel Consumption at altitude is greatly reduced, however that is because the aircraft is a cruise power rather than full take off power. The function of the catapult on an aircraft carrier is to accelerate the aircraft to take-off speed quickly, not to save fuel on take off. The proportion of fuel used on take off for a 9-hour flight is relatively small.

          Another factor to consider is the size of the catapult required to launch a 350 ton civil airliner (Max T/O weight of a 747-8 is 975,000 lb) compared to the catapult required to launch a 20 ton F-18 hornet :-O

          Catapults for civil airliners, sounds like a marketing brain fart to me.

          1. Fibbles

            Re: Catapults are designed

            "The function of the catapult on an aircraft carrier is to accelerate the aircraft to take-off speed quickly, not to save fuel on take off"

            We're not talking about aircraft carriers with truncated runways here, we're talking about airports with full sized runways. Imagining a military style cat flinging a 747 is kind of ridiculous, especially since military jets take off at full power even with cats so that they're less likely to end up in the sea.

            A catapult for a commercial airliner of the future could accelerate the plane slowly over a long runway. This would be more comfortable for the passengers but it also would allow the plane to reach take-off speed whilst exerting much less force from its own engines. The plane could be fitted either with smaller engines (decreasing weight and drag) or normal sized engines but dialled back (decreasing fuel consumption).

            "The proportion of fuel used on take off for a 9-hour flight is relatively small."

            Aviation fuel is only going to get more expensive and since I already get charged extra if my baggage is even slightly over my allotted limit, I see no reason why airlines would keep buying extra fuel (and more fuel to carry the weight of that fuel etc. etc.) if they could instead pay for a catapult powered by locally generated electricity.

    4. LarsG


      Some people believe Star Trek is real.

      Pie in the Sky I think.

      Now beam me up Scotty.

    5. Charles Manning

      The real reason for all this

      Of course these are not plans. Anyway, any promise from a government or organisation to deliver something in 40 years time (when all the existing company officals are dead and buried) is obvious bullshit.

      So why do these companies actually promise all this? For the same reason McDonalds puts salads on the menu.

      McDonalds shoppers don't actually buy the salads, but just seeing salads on the menu helps to alleviate the feeling that they are making unhealthy choices when they buy a grease bomb. (Putting aside the issue that Mc salads are covered with fat too).

      Same deal here: increasingly greeny consumers associate the aircraft industry with being bad polluters etc. But customers feel a bit better when they hear that these aircraft companies are developing stuff that will make flying less polluting.

    6. miknik

      Re: Plans?

      What we will be doing in 40 years time in regard to any travel is anyone's guess really, but I'm at least glad someone is spending some money on thinking about it and striving to keep innovating.

      I'd like to toss into the hat the concept of a crank and pedals in front of every seat to assist in taxing and take off roll.

  2. solidsoup

    Lifecycle cost?

    Have they studied the lifecycle cost of such modifications to planes or infrastructure or is this another example of Prius phenomenon - where an environmentally damaging car (due to its labor costs and reduced life expectancy, and toxic materials) is widely considered to be an environmentally friendly alternative because its marketed as such?

    Aside from predictive software for navigation, I think the savings from these "innovations" won't offset the cost of implementation. Not that it won't happen, mind you. After all, we have wind power, subsidies for hybrids, and recycling of paper and plastic (also terrible for environment and productivity).

    1. Colin Wright

      Re: Lifecycle cost?

      It's blue sky thinking. Ho ho.

      Basically, it's focusing on ways to save fuel because aviation fuel is getting increasingly expensive, to the point that it has a significant effect on business. Given how much fuel is used just in take-off and landing, systems that make those much more efficient could make a big difference. 30 years of use with multiple flights each day adds up to a lot of fuel and if aviation fuel prices continue to rise the return on investment of fuel-reduction technologies will continue to increases.

      But stuff like formation flying and engine-off landings won't be allowed, as much as airlines might like it.

      PS Everything you read about the Prius in "Dust to Dust" (or may have heard repeated by Jeremey Clarkson) was (and continues to be) complete bullshit made up as a hatchet job (still with some lasting success, apparently).

      1. solidsoup

        Re: Lifecycle cost?

        While the assumptions of that study are bullshit, the premise is not. Significant proportion of people buy hybrids because they consider them more environmentally friendly than similar non-hybrid cars. That is simply not true if you take into account product life, manufacturing, and battery recycling. While it may become true at some point in the future, we're very far from it.

        As to Airbus predictions, a single crash due to reduced reliability would wipe out years of savings (provided those savings would even offset capital investment to begin with).

      2. Marvin the Martian

        Re: Lifecycle cost?

        And the organic interior is just a small step forward. Now you get the snack, discard the lettuce leaf and eat the slightly more tasty container it came with.

        Soon the same with the organic chairs. On long haul flights you eat the uncomfy parts away.

      3. Joe Pineapples

        Re: Lifecycle cost?

        Isn't driving a Prius one of the leading causes of SMUG in the southern US? I for one would not drive a Prius until the SMUG threat has been totally eliminated!

        And when I stop seeing them overtake my at 90 on the M40 :-)

        1. Thomas 4
          IT Angle

          Re: Lifecycle cost?

          My main thought is that aircraft guzzle a hell of a lot of fuel and there's a lot of them. How exactly do you generate that much biofuel to keep the world's aircraft supplied every day? I'm not saying that standard fuel is the best solution but the sheer logisitics and quantities involved with biofuel makes me skeptical.

  3. Rick Damiani

    A wonderful idea!

    Solar cells on an aircraft would be a tremendous boost for the manufacturers of solar cells, though homeowners along the flight path might not appreciate the constant rain of glass and silicon...

    Not so great for the passengers would be the consequences of an uncontained engine failure in an engine that's buried inside the fuselage or at the wing root. Converting a serious but controllable failure into the loss of a wing isn't much of a win for anyone.

    Also missing form the plan is how these aircraft - launching from short runways via catapults - might then manage to land on those short runways in inclement weather. Arresting wires gear and tail hooks perhaps?

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Wing Root

      The comet had many failings, but wings falling off wasn;t one.

      I imagine the passion for suspended engines has more to do with maintenance access,

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Wing Root

        Did a Comet ever suffer a rotor burst (in testing or in service)?

        Genuine question, I don't know.

        Modern airliners contain those inside the engine pods, but the pod may be very badly damaged and deformed by the burst.

        So I'd also be a bit worried about that idea, as a bent engine pod is not going to seriously affect the lift while a bent wing would.

      2. itzman

        Re: Wing Root

        It does.

        There is no other reason at all. Certainly podded engines are not good for drag.

      3. SkippyBing

        Re: Wing Root

        The major advantage with having the engine hanging off the front of the wing is that it counteracts the aerodynamic twisting moment. Without the engine there you'd have to build a stronger, heavier wing leading to increased fuel costs etc.

        Plus it'd be pretty tricky fitting a Trent 800 or similar high bypass engine into the wing root these days, never mind two of them.

        1. tommy060289
          Thumb Up

          Re: Wing Root

          The major reasons for 'hanging engines' is size. Modern turbo-fan engines are much much bigger than the old turbo jets that were in the old comets. Turbo-fans pass around 90% of the air that flows through LP compression around the edge of the engine and is never combusted. Its not as powerful as a true turbo jet but far more effecient. Turbo jets still appear in performance critical applications like military jets as what the front end does is more relevant than whats coming out the back end:).

          However, as has been said, torque and maintenance are all good reasons for hanging engines. Goven the chance though i suspect these benefits could easily be overcome by a reduced effective frontal area if you could ever fit the engines back into the wings.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wing Root

        The comet had many failings, but wings falling off wasn;t one.

        True, but a couple of them just exploded (explosive decompression) though

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: A wonderful idea!

      I'm guessing the solar cells will contribute towards the power requirements of the electrical systems on board meaning less demand for fuel. At cruising altitute, you are usually above the clouds, so it will work most of the time. At night, and in cloudy weather, it would revert to 100% generator powered.

    3. dssf

      Re: A wonderful idea!

      They can try inverse phasing, or cross-circuiting to B.... Or, just ordinary anti-grav thrusters to land right on the spot. Or, tractor beams and flight path guides can bring them in during ion stor... Umm, rain storms....

      If all else fails, they'd better have a secretly-placed Tantalus Field to wipe out a few specific designers or project managers, hahahaha...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have serious doubts about flying by the general public will continue to be possible in the increasingly green political climate. When I look at it from the perspective of a green-weenie, it just makes sense for people to stick to their own neighborhoods and be about their business of slowly starving to death so that Mohter Earth can get on with Her life. Why should a carpenter be allowed fo fly anyway? He should be glad that we even allow him to live, let alone travel by air. Of course, no self-respecting green would ever dare to say such a thing in the open. She will be determined to spin fairytales like the one in this article just to be safe. That way, you will not realize that the things you take for granted today, will be taken away from you in the very near future--things like international travel, for instance. Eat local and in season and we will all be better off, right?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dirigibles

      Perhaps the planners should read "The Machine Stops".

      It describes a future world where people live underground - each person in their own room. Machines automatically maintain the infrastructure. They rarely need to leave their room as they have a console with which they can select their favourite recorded music - or communicate with other people over a video link.

      For employment they use the console to search the world's information stores - which they rehash into new works. For the rare occasions they need to travel long distances there are automatically piloted dirigibles.

      Not a H G Wells story - but a more unexpected author - E M Forster in 1909. Available as a free online text.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Dirigibles

        Thanks for the recommendation. Another one for my "books to read some day" list.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dirigibles

        Hey, that was somewhat random, but thanks :)

        I am often looking for things to add to the pile, I had a look for the story, and found it in "The Phoenix Pick Anthology of Classic Science Fiction" on Amazon, which is on my Kindle for three quid. Some anachronistic early scifi sounds like just the ticket for a change of pace, thank you.

        I usually just watch for interesting reviews or corner friends and demand suggestions when I run out of ideas, so you're saving them having to rack their brains.

      3. Oninoshiko
        Thumb Up

        Re: Dirigibles

        I think I'll take you up on the recommendation too!

        A good book recommendation is always nice.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Dirigibles

      Why just dirigibles?

      A screen effect monster can deliver a nice in-between - slower than turbojet, much faster than dirigible.

      Similarly, it is likely to be considerably more energy efficient than a turbojet as well and there are plenty of routes where I would rather travel for 4-5 more hours but in comfort like transatlantics and transpacifics. In fact, anything over the ocean.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Dirigibles

        Screen effect? Not familiar with that one. Perhaps you typoed "ground effect"?

        See "Ekranoplan" (for example) for more.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dirigibles

          Or don't, as Ekranoplans, though they look amazing, have a nasty habit of crashing in a nasty way if they hit a big wave. Such a shame.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: Dirigibles

          Ah. the Caspian Sea Monster.

          (Is it just me or does that sound like a good name for pron actor?)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dirigibles @jake

          From Webster's Online Dictionary : "An ekranoplan (Russian: экранопла́н, literally "screen plane") ..."

          Or maybe he was thinking in Russian?

          1. MrT

            Ah, Major Grant...

            skaitie pierva rakieta...

  5. Charles 9


    One thing not mentioned in the slides is that in carrier takeoffs, military aircraft always go to full power before the catapult launches (that's the reason for the blast deflectors) because the catapult is a necessarily one-way process, and if something goes wrong, you need all the power you have to stabilize yourself and not crash into the sea. IOW, catapults are risky but pretty much the ONLY way to launch from a sea-based platform these days without resorting to even riskier VTOL technology. Since aircraft are already at full power before a catapult launch, why bother with it on land (where full power is used to get aloft--AND can be aborted in the event of a problem).

    1. fishman

      Re: Catapults

      Don't forget the added G forces from the catapult - think of the elderly and small children. Also, they have to beef up the structure to take the loads - increasing the weight of the aircraft.

      They will probably go to a low G forcees system - a mild catapult effect to minimize the above problems.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Catapults

        Dunno, if they made the seats taller (the head restraints poke me in the neck/shoulder without supporting my head), I'd have to admit that selfishly, I'd rather enjoy the frisson of the g-forces for a short time. Ahem.

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Catapults

      Darn, my kids would have loved a high G catapult take-off, judging by the sizes of their respective grins the first time they took of in an airliner (cries of "COOL!!!" clearly communicated to other passengers it was their first time). A really high G take off would have had them hooked.

      A low-G catapult would leave them very disappointed.

  6. Herby

    Of course, we could use...

    ...ballistic missiles. The only power they use is on take off, and if you do it right the time saved could be enormous. Then you save all expenses by making the flight vehicles "recyclable".

    Of course we did this in the last century and called it space flight. It was fun, but our president decided to stop playing in the sandbox. Oh, well.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Of course, we could use...

      Rocket assisted take-off for planes was used by several countries in the 20th century.

  7. Eddy Ito

    glide + landing = controlled crash on wheels, hopefully

    "Aviation authorities, however, insist on powered landing for safety reasons."

    Yes, that's because those authorities know that gliding is basically falling with some modicum of control. There are any number of situations that would require a go-around from an object, like another plane, not clearing the runway, windshear, cross winds, etc. Oh, should I mention that those nice folks who currently use catapults and tailhooks happen to apply full power just in case they miss all the cables on the deck and have to wave off?

    Leave the gliding to the gliders and the airliners that have already had "oh shit" happen because if you're already gliding and "oh shit" comes up, you're still going down.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: glide + landing = controlled crash on wheels, hopefully

      Do you not remember the first ever episode of "Thunderbirds"?

      1. NogginTheNog

        First ever Thunderbirds

        Not only do I remember it, I still have the LP audio episode of it I got on my 5th birthday.

    2. despairing citizen

      Re: glide + landing = controlled crash on wheels, hopefully

      Yep, there's a reason aircrew practice touch and go landings (e.g. getting your arse over the obstruction on the runway)

      The basic physics of momentum also constrain how fast you can get a jet back up and running, after it has spun down, and fitting "OH SHIT!!!" rocket motors to the plane (as a one shot get out of jail free card/into the air) kind of defeats the fuel/weight saving, due to all the fuel needed to lug the motors.

      Wonder if they asked any pilots about these ideas?, or if only the airframe and aerodynamics chaps got allowed to contribute?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: glide + landing = controlled crash on wheels, hopefully

      Eddy, before your next flight, I think you may want to look up the term "constant descent profile". This is what the Airbus people are referring to, badly mangled by incompetent journalists or PR people.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @AC 22:07 (was: Re: glide + landing = controlled crash on wheels, hopefully)

        Do you mean "continuous descent approach" or "optimized profile descent"?

        As a pilot, I can't remember hearing the "constant descent profile" variation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @jake, 03:21

          -- Do you mean "continuous descent approach" or "optimized profile descent"?

          As an astronaut, rock star and part-time brain surgeon I saw those in the first response on Google, too ...

          1. jake Silver badge

            @ AC 14:46 (was: Re: @jake, 03:21)

            As an educated human, I don't do google.

            Care to explain where "constant descent profile" came from?

            I thought not.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ AC 14:46 (was: @jake, 03:21)

              "As an educated human, I don't do google."

              I don't believe you.

              "Care to explain where "constant descent profile" came from?"

              Doesn't matter. That wasn't the point I was making.

              "I thought not."

              It's childish to say that before someone has a chance to answer in a conversation; in a forum it makes no sense - you're presuming the response. I don't know the name for that fallacy, but I'm sure you do. You're educated.

            2. James Hughes 1

              Re: @ AC 14:46 (was: @jake, 03:21)

              As an educated human, I do 'Do Google'. It's the educated thing to do.

              1. jake Silver badge

                @James Hughes 1 (was: Re: @ AC 14:46 (was: @jake, 03:21))

                Not in my classroom. google's worse than wiki when it comes to finding "facts".

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @ AC 14:46 (was: @jake, 03:21)

              "As an educated human, I don't do google."

              Ho Hum...

              "Care to explain where "constant descent profile" came from?"

              Do you know what a descent profile is (since you mentioned that you are "a pilot"[*], I expect you do)? A constant descent profile is one where the descent angle is held constant. Do note that it's the angle that's held constant, not the vertical speed, which will vary according to your ground speed in order to achieve the required gradient. For more info, ask your friendly FI next time you're at the clubhouse.

              [*] I won't bother with the old "How do you know there is a pilot in the room" joke, but it is so true, isn't it? :)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC 22:07 (was: glide + landing = controlled crash on wheels, hopefully)

          > Do you mean "continuous descent approach" or "optimized profile descent"?

          Not to cause offence, but since your comment sounds slightly patronising, no, I mean a constant descent profile.

          > As a pilot, I can't remember hearing the "constant descent profile" variation.

          May I respectfully enquire if the extent of your aviation background includes commercial experience on multi-pilot aircraft?

          (original AC, btw.)

          1. jake Silver badge

            @AC20:49 (was: Re: @AC 22:07 (was: glide + landing = controlled crash on wheels, hopefully)

            "Not to cause offence, but since your comment sounds slightly patronising, no, I mean a constant descent profile."

            I'm not saying you are wrong ... I'm just asking for a pointer to where that particular variation on the theme is used.

            "May I respectfully enquire if the extent of your aviation background includes commercial experience on multi-pilot aircraft?

            I've been flying for a third of a century. I am not a commercial pilot, but I am licensed to fly multi-engined aircraft. P3, DC-8 and DC-10 are about the largest I've been checked out on and feel comfy with (USGS, NASA & NOAA out of Moffett Field ... I was the civilian communications/computer-geek onboard, and third "emergency, oh shit!" pilot. Thankfully, outside training, I was never required to take the controls ...).

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Vic

      Re: glide + landing = controlled crash on wheels, hopefully

      > those authorities know that gliding is basically falling with some modicum of control.

      You'd be surprised. I was doing engine-failure drills a couple of weeks ago. The plane was remarkably well-controlled.

      Now I've no idea what it's like in a big jet, but the Gimli Glider incident proves that it's perfectly possible.


  8. Tom 7

    If you want to save fuel

    those internal combustion engines with a large propeller can do an excellent job.

    No need to try and fly fast - every second you save in the air the airport and the means of getting to it will take double that.

    I quite like the idea of slower cheaper travel - currently all the benefits of a holiday are blown getting home and slower planes might mean more passenger space. A proper bar and somewhere for screaming kids to go on a 20 hour flight would seem a lot better than 8 hours of hell.

    1. itzman

      Re: If you want to save fuel

      A jet engine is an internal combustion engine, and for sure a jet engine coupled to a propeller is a lot better than a piston engine. But no better than a jet.

      The actual energy loss of an aircraft is related to drag times distance: in principle the smaller the wings the less drag, but it has to fly faster to stay up. So flying slower doesn't really help that much. Slow planes have only one advantage: you can get them down in smaller places. Planes take of - have to take off, fairly close to cruising speeds. A three to one max speed to stall speed is hard to exceed without massive inefficient power.

      And finally return on investment (annualised) is all other things being equal better if the plane does more trips by travelling faster.

      Shake all that up and up get what we have today. Large gliders that glide at high altitude at just under the local speed of sound, and not far away from the stall speed at that altitude either, with just enough power from turbofans optimised top work at the altitude and speed, to get up there, and stay up, and enough extra wing extendable not to need a 5 mile runway.

      ground base catapults could reduce the need for inefficient low altitude high thrust engine modes yes, but the rest is mainly bollocks

      Reducing air travel overall would make sense: the less aircraft stacking the less fuel they burn.

      Andy way the real answer is maglev trains in vacuum tubes doing Mach 3 (well it would be Mach 3 if they were in air). Run those off a few nuclear power stations. Airlocks at each station...and regenerative braking..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you want to save fuel

        Doesn't the jet-prop engine have advantages due to extra lift from the propellor's airflow over the wing?

      2. dssf

        Re: If you want to save fuel SGM-Pax ... Going TOTALLY TUBULAR, DUDE...

        We could go the route of Self-Guided-Munition-- Passenger Mod 1. Just magnetically launch each passenger in his or her own cylinder. On approach to glideslope, it homes in on a beacon and makes final course adjustments. It could allow each person 120 lbs of launchable weight. G forces might be a bitch, and 2,000,000 "baby bullets" in US airspace alone would drive ADC/SAC/NORAD/whatever it's called these days battty. But, anaesthesia and anti-diarrheals may be quite necessary since the flight might be only about 60 minutes to cross coast to coast. Trans Atlantic could be QUITE transformational. TransPac could be a spine-packer package.

        Parachutes would be necessary. But, imagine the reduced number of group fatalities: If a few hundred a year fail terminally, it won't be "party crash/er" type of deal.

        Sadly, this might put a lot of pilots out of business. OTOH, they could be trained to become trajectory planners or even double-up on "accident/mishap insurance" sales and triple-up as insurance consultants. I haven't figured out what to do with teams and families. They might go by formation-bulleting. Speaking of "bulleting", almost all Pax might feel as if they are in the Outer Limits or Twilight Zone due to rifling. And, if a crazy tripled-up pilot includes Coriolis Effect Program 3.4.B, the flight might become VERY interesting as in-flight entertainment would really take one out FOR and DURING "a spin". Talk about airlines of the future needing "Spin Doctors"...

      3. dssf

        Re: If you want to save fuel HelluvaLevitation

        What'd be REALLY kewl is having non-stop focal points where, say, 150 maglevs timed to cross through a single portal or pathway hurtling along at Mach 4 (maybe in their own tubes to cut down on aerodynamic issues) every 22 minutes or so. There's GOT to be some future benefit to that. Well, as long as they don't build the portals too close to the Super Conducting Semi-Collider or that "Time Ring" relativity machine people worried would open rift or gateway to Hell.

        I hope it is Mach 3 or Mach 4, because I rode at 305 kph or faster on the Shanghai Maglev, and I really felt underwhelmed. Might have been more fun had it bolted off rather than acted like a silky accelerator.

        Having said that, I would not be first in line to ride any Mach 6 Souper Hadron Slinky Plane... That'd be a helluva sight, too. Such an airline might be calld "Tendrils", but the Pax might feel as if hit by Ten DRILLS...

      4. Charles 9

        Re: If you want to save fuel

        "Andy way the real answer is maglev trains in vacuum tubes doing Mach 3 (well it would be Mach 3 if they were in air). Run those off a few nuclear power stations. Airlocks at each station...and regenerative braking.."

        Nice idea, but the infrastructure costs would be immense (somewhere around 10% of the US GDP for a cross-country tube). Not to mention the energy costs needed to power the trains (because the linear motors would need enough electromagnetic force to keep the car and all load afloat) and to maintain the vacuum (as air will inevitably get in wherever it can) and the inevitable maintenance costs for wear and tear, and what if there's an earthquake along the line. And forget nuclear plants--you underestimate the NIMBY Luddites.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: If you want to save fuel

          You could go with a Halback array passive system

          This cancels *exterior* magnetic force (IE one side) and doubles that of the other.

          IIRC a low rolling resistance aircraft trolley was one of the first applications suggested for this. Above something like 10m/s the trolley becomes self levitating


          The other key *potential* enabler of this was the "sub terrene" technique of melting rock to form the tunnel wall *without* using a lining.

          Regenerative braking should help a lot but you have to inject a certain amount of the system to *start* with (and there will be losses to be topped up).

          I've always liked the concept. but you'd have to build a constant depth tunnel system to do it.

          That said the velocity is set by a) ability to endure acceleration to cruise velocity and b) how much energy you're prepared to put into the capsule.

          But M2 would be easy, M3+ definitely possible.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you want to save fuel

        Vacuum tubes cut straight through the curvature of the earth.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you want to save fuel


        The actual energy loss of an aircraft is related to drag times distance:

        Sorry I don't think you understand drag very well. Drag has four components, form (shape) friction, interference (caused by surfaces at different angles e.g. the tail surfaces) and lift-induced (wing tip vortices), and is inversely proportional to speed, double your speed and you will quadruple your drag, or to put it another way, you need 4 times as much energy to overcome the drag of going twice as fast. Distance travelled does not enter the equation.

        1. Vic

          Re: If you want to save fuel

          > Distance travelled does not enter the equation

          Yes, it does. Drag is a force.

          As any O-level physicist knows, energy expended = force * distance. So if you multiply[1] your drag by the distance over which it has acted, you get the total energy used to overcome it.


          [1] Strictly speaking, it's an integral, but let's keep it simple for now, huh?

    2. despairing citizen

      Re: somewhere for screaming kids to go on a 20 hour flight

      I believe planes are usually fitted with doors, and the weight saving will reduce fuel consumption, as well as improve the disposition of the trolly dollies serving your G&T in a calm relaxed atmosphere

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course, this is a fairy tail, just like the decades of commentry from Boeing about next gen SST's. It's all dream land.

    In 40 years time the 757 will probably still be in service (a 70s bird) never mind the newer aircraft like 777, 787, A330/50/80 etc..

    1. itzman

      Do tyou really think anyone beyond the super rich..

      Will be able to afford air travel in 2050?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do tyou really think anyone beyond the super rich..

        ...and if they are using biofuels then it may well be a case of "let everyone else eat cake".

  10. David Pollard

    Inspired by aliens

    From the flights of fancy it rather looks as though the author(s) set out to compete with the story that the atmospheres of planets such as Jupiter are inhabited by giant jellyfish.

  11. RonWheeler

    Solar - oh FFS

    Solar power is not going to be capable of powering planes in any meaningful way..If they're lucky it might power the first half of the inflight movie screens, maybe. Back in the real world my bet is hydrogen fuel derived from nuclear sources, despite current unpalatability with the trendies.

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: Solar - oh FFS

      I've been travelling around the world for around 5 decades, am old enough to have flown in a scheduled route in a Dakota and a DeHavilland Rapide.

      And I'm about sick of it. My fervent hope is that we can't find a replacement for fossil fuels and have to go back to travelling by sailing ship, a genuinely civilised form of transport which doesn't involve being groped by security staff every 14 yards through the port.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Solar - oh FFS

        ORLY? Months-long voyages? Rotting food rations (which happen to include rock-hard biscuits and oversalted meat)? BTW, hope you like sauerkraut as that was the usual way to avoid scurvy during those long trips. There's a reason planes" took off". Put simply, we had better things to do than wait to get from point A to point B. Just get us there so we can get on with our lives.

        1. SkippyBing

          Rotting food rations (which happen to include rock-hard biscuits and oversalted meat)?

          You've heard of fridges right?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Rotting food rations (which happen to include rock-hard biscuits and oversalted meat)?

            Hey, those biscuits have transformed into a must-have munchy item in various islandy or coasty locations for nostalgic reasons, but sadly don''t include the "extra protein" for extra authenticity :P

        2. Robert E A Harvey

          @Charles9 Re: Solar - oh FFS

          >had better things to do than wait to get from point A to point B


          I have spent over 20 years of my working life in the Merchant Navy, in one form or another: Bananna boats, Passenger liners, Research ships, Hydrography. One thing I am completely certain of. There is absolutely no "better thing to do" than to spend the last hour of the day leaning on the ship's rail watching the sun go down over the ocean, Or standing on the bridge watching the bow heave and pitch in a force 10 with mountainous seas.

          Back when the Test Team went to Australia by ship they at least knew how far they had come, and by the time they got there the team bonding was pretty absolute. The whole of life is a journey, and it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

          These days I jet all over the world commissioning giant things. The existance of jet travel at a moment's notice mean that our clients do not have to plan properly or be well organised. Compare that with the 18th century when "Mr Boulton's man" was sent out from Cornwall with a sack of gold coins to prepare for the arrival of the iron bits of a beam engine. That had to be properly planned and executed!

        3. Oninoshiko

          Re: sauerkraut

          I thought the traditional british solution was limes? Is this just an urban legend?

          For the record, I can enjoy a good 'krout with my sausage.

  12. bill 36

    Would you like to explain that?

    although the graphic of the takeoff angle suggests a lot of spilled drinks and freefalling cabin crew.

    No it doesn't

  13. MJI Silver badge

    My thoughts

    Airliners peaked in design a few years ago - nothing flying now as good as a decade ago.

    Wing in ground effect is more efficient - cross oceans at low level using less fuels.

    I think for land masses high speed rail is the best solution

    1. Robert E A Harvey

      Re: My thoughts

      Yes, Trains are another immensely civilised form of travel, and they very rarely hit the ground from thirty thousand feet. Truly, the future of travel is the past.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: My thoughts

        But terrible at long distances. New York to San Francisco. Several hours by plane...several DAYS by train.

        1. Robert E A Harvey

          New York to San Francisco

 the perfect route for a proper high speed or maglev train service.

          The South Korean government is planning, when their re-unification eventually occurs, a line from Seoul to Moscow. I met the chap planning it.

          on Jun 4, 1876 the "Transcontinental express" did NY to SF in 83 hours, coal fired and hand stoked. Today it takes over 140. Doesn't sound like progress to me. The rail distance is something like 3,400 miles. Were that all French TGV standard it would take around 17 hours. The technology to get that below 10 hours is either known or imminent. For heavens sake, the old British Rail 225 sets from the late 1980s could do it in 22 hours, at least a few times. Virgin's Pendolinos could do it in 27, although It might take longer as I think they might have to stop for a lube break at some point!

          By the time fossil fuels expire we might be very pleased to take 24 hours for a journey that would take 4 to 6 months on foot.

          I'll get me coat. It probably still has a 1968 combined volume in the pocket.

          1. Christian Berger

            Yes it would be

            Particularly compared to the routes the German "Transrapid" was considered for. They wanted to haver a route between Munich, and Munich Airport.... You would have saved 7 minutes I think.

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: New York to San Francisco

          It's only 3000 miles, and whilst that may be several days by Thomas the Tank Engine, it's an overnight sleeper if you care to design a train for the task.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Re: New York to San Francisco

            Less than a day for a HST, but then you would need to refuel it.

            Proper high speed like the French are researching 10 hours

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: My thoughts

          A little faster if you could put down new tracks and run high-speed electric trains for example, but I suppose there needs to be enough demand between A and B ....

          1. Charles 9

            Re: My thoughts

            New York to San Francisco would involve crossing two mountain ranges (one of which is both pretty tall and pretty vast) as well as San Francisco Bay (IIRC trains stop at Oakland and bus you the rest of the way). I haven't heard much about high-speed trains that pass THROUGH mountain ranges. At least a route towards Los Angeles can skirt the worst of the mountains by trending south where they're shallower and flatter.

            1. Robert E A Harvey

              @ charles9 12:32 Re: My thoughts

              The Swiss do quite well at running trains THROUGH mountains. OK, the present Gotthard was built before TGVs, but so what? With a known clear and safe run you could go faster through a tunnel. They are planning 250Km/h for the new Gotthard:

              The Channel Tunnel is quite long, although the Sei-kan is a mile or so more. I imagine that the USA can do 4 times the distance if it chose.

              Biggest problem I see with tunnelling right through the Rockies are the fault lines. It's not very stable. You'd not want to re-align the tunnel every 10 years, and you might, just might, make california come loose and fall off.

              You'd probably want to use tunneling to reduce the grades, rather than eliminate them altogether.

              1. Hardcastle the ancient

                make california come loose and fall off.

                Wasn't that an X-men plot?

        4. MJI Silver badge

          New York to San Francisco

          Hmm I got to about 23 hours with Diesel and 16 if you used a TGV.

          Proper not flying anymore airliner would have been about 2 1/2 hours

          1. Robert E A Harvey

            @MJI Re: New York to San Francisco

            "Proper not flying anymore airliner"

            sad now.

            Going back to the original topic, one of the ideas for HOTOL was a rocket-assisted take-off trolley, not unlike the catapault spoken of. Clever chaps.

            Look at the bottom of

    2. Charles 9

      Re: My thoughts

      IIRC the ground effect is reduced over open water because the ocean is uneven and capable of being pushed by sufficient air. Plus I wouldn't like to take a Ground Effect Vehicle through a storm front or an active sea lane--low altitudes don't allow for a lot of options when Murphy comes calling.

  14. John H Woods Silver badge

    Whilst we're doing pie-in-the-sky ....

    ... how about energy recovery systems?

    Catch incoming aircraft in huge spring-loaded, ratcheted catapult, providing must of the energy required to launch the next one.

  15. despairing citizen

    Missed the ANA solution to saving fuel

    Ask the passengers to use the toilet before leaving, for the weight saving

  16. Mr Young

    "Aircraft will become totally recyclable"

    Maybe "aircraft will be lighter and faster" sounds better? And don't worry about the recycle bit - Earth will take care of that for you

  17. RPF
    Thumb Down

    Complete and utter bollocks

    This is complete and utter bollocks from Airbus.

    Engines are podded forward of the wing main-spar for a reason (uncontained failures do still happen) and the regulators won't be changing that requirement, probably ever, especially on engines that "need" less servicing.

    Formation flying is incredibly difficult in small, manoeuvrable fighters; in large aircraft with masses more momentum, it would be harder still. Again, the regulators wouldn't even countenance it, for sure.

    Flying in another aircraft's vortices is not "free lift", it's turbulence...!

    Wings already adapt to wind conditions; they use flaps and slats (some settings are specifically designed for gusty or strong-wind conditions) and that's all that's needed, thanks.

    At least they are moving towards "flying-wing" designs forms, though; that's a good start.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Complete and utter bollocks

      RPF, you have shown some familiarity with general aviation concepts, congratulations on that.

      However, do you not think you are being reckless in your assumption that Airbus do not know what they are talking about when it comes to aircraft? Are you aware that they actually design and build those things for a living?

      Anyway, if you really believe you know better, may I suggest you send your comments directly to them? For your convenience, here is the address:

      1, Rond Point Maurice Bellonte

      31707 Blagnac CEDEX


      (If you would rather present your ideas personally, the above location is just a pleasant fifteen minutes walk from the commercial passenger terminal in Toulouse-Blagnac airport).

      1. jake Silver badge

        @AC 22:22 (was: Re: Complete and utter bollocks)

        AC, old chap, you seem to have forgotten that engineering teams rarely (if ever) release press releases guesstimating the future of technology. That's the job of marketing & management. And why most such thingies are ignored and/or laughed at by folks with a clue about engineering.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Formation flying... really hard if you try to do it manually rather than putting a high-speed comms link between the computer flying the front plane and the computers flying all the others.

      You could make the same remarks about formation driving, but various research groups are already doing this on public roads and I expect my grandchildren will not have to learn how to drive a car, just as I never learned how to steer a horse-drawn carriage.

    3. SkippyBing

      Formation flying is incredibly difficult in small, manoeuvrable fighters

      No it isn't, unless you're planning on the sort of proximity and manoeuvres the Red Arrows display which due to the amount of turbulence you'd experience you wouldn't be. A few airliners heading across the Atlantic with minimal heading, height and speed corrections would be easy, and allow fuel savings as demonstrated by NASA a few years back.

      Disclaimer, I've flown formation in aircraft less manoeuvrable than a fighter, I've even done it in helicopters which is the opposite of exciting.

      I believe the major problem with the flying wing design is getting people off inside the time limit required by the regulators, there's far more volume per unit surface area than there is with a tube making it hard to fit in enough doors.

  18. Alan Dougherty
    Thumb Down

    Burst ear drums

    I'm sorry, but fuel saving, shorter runways & quicker flight times.. will mean nothing, when myself, others with my condition, and any children, sue them for burst eardrums, due to thin ear canals..

    Even as an adult, a more rapid than normal descent, will cause me pain like you could not believe.. and it was worse when I was a kid.. and most flights I have been on have pre-teens holding their ears, crying, because of a steep descent (usualy due to weather considtions, and this is just with current planes)..

    Unless they can properly regulate the cabin pressure in a steep descent, then they will spend more money on legal fees and medical bills, than this will save on fuel..

    Whats next.. 'Sorry Sir, you can't fly. Your ear canals are too narrow to withstand quick pressure drops..'?

    1. Alan Dougherty

      Re: Burst ear drums

      Apologies, that should have been quick pressure *increases*..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Burst ear drums

      @ Alan "Whats next.. 'Sorry Sir, you can't fly. Your ear canals are too narrow to withstand quick pressure drops..'?"

      Probably - if that is made part of the conditions of carriage, then you can't sue them so they will have zero legal fees or medical bills. Although how would a first time flier know? Medical before you are allowed to fly?

      I rather suspect that the accountants can quickly work out whether the loss of income from people with difficulty equalising the pressure in their ears and deduce whether that is greater or lesser than the fuel savings from a steeper descent.

      In fact, I would not be surprised to find there is already a disclaimer in the conditions of carriage - much as the airline can refuse to carry someone who is drunk, pregnant past a certain point etc.

      Oh, and as for saving fuel by flying in formation - only if the computer is in charge. Anyone who has done any formation flying will be well aware that lead almost always lands with more fuel than everyone else - staying in position requires lots of throttle adjustments.

    3. jake Silver badge

      @Alan Dougherty (was: Re: Burst ear drums)

      Chew gum during take-off and/or landing. Works for my sister, who is otherwise in terrible pain even at the rates of assent/descent that I can do in my little Cessna A152 ... And indeed, even traveling by car between Sacramento and Truckee, California (~5,800 feet of climb, in about an hour and a half).

      My sister HATES the concept of gum chewing (she thinks it's one of the most disgusting things that humans do voluntarily), but it's part of her travel kit anyway. Try it.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. JaitcH

    Wet Creams ...

    So impracticable they'll unlikely work.

    Remember we were all going to be flying in our personal planes, or zipping between planets with sky windows served by voluptuous female cabin staff by now? Hell, they even had to junk the Concord.

    And what did we get?

    Security Theatre staged by the TSA. Some progress .. shoes off, belt off, let us have a little feel.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who cares? These aren't the problems!

    The real issues of flying:

    Quasi-sadistic mostly pointless TSA regulations

    Long lines to be "searched"

    Arbitrary TSA application of the rules

    Quasi-sadistic TSA staff,...We've all seen them and they suck

    The time to get to and from the airport

    Seats that force me to chooses between breathing and pulling down the tray table

    Elbow room insufficient for a child, never mind an adult

    Extras for everything - even going to the loo

    Epidemic of hemorrhoids among flight crews (that is the only thing to account for their attitude)

    Airports with 3 mile hikes to the gates...The Brits love these

    Airport parking

    Needing GPS to find a way out of the airport

    Airlines (United loves this) who having a dozen special categories for early boarding

    Nowhere to sleep if you are stuck in an airport overnight

    Uncomfortable airport seating

    Lousy public WiFi

    TVs that display politically correct close-captions, but are tuned to dumb channels

    TVs that flicker all the time

    Heathrow airport (They don't need new runways. They should tear down the terminals and do them right.)

    I suspect I've missed quite a few...oh well!

    1. Hardcastle the ancient

      You missed

      The food.

      KLM recently replaced their weird in-flight sandwiches with packets of horrible biscuit scraps.

      And where else but an airport would they charge 15 bucks for a hamburger?

  21. F111F

    I Call BS on Formation Flying = Fuel Savings

    I've been around aviation for 32 years now and I don't know of a single episode of aircraft (military or civilian) flying in formation to save fuel. Fighters fly in formation for mutual support. Heavies fly in formation usually for airdrops when trying to get tons of crap into one small patch (or photo ops). Anyone who has ever done in-flight refueling will tell you it takes a LOT of work to keep the aircraft in position, especially when two heavies are involved. Now, I don't think the article is suggesting the aircraft fly within 50ft of each other, but the wake turbulence from an A380 or 747 can only be described as "massive". Flying in that turbulence to save a few gallons of fuel would certainly cause higher stress loads on the airframe, more inspections, and longer times out of service, probably negating the fuel savings. Then, add the cost of cleaning up the interior of the trailing aircraft from the passengers puking up last year's dinners...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I Call BS on Formation Flying = Fuel Savings

      Hi F111F,

      My impression is that someone got confused there, or the point came across rather badly mangled. "Formation flying" is being used in a very loose sense of the term here. What they mean is expanded on here: where they talk of a separation "of about 20 wingspans – far less than the four nautical miles that separates civil aircraft today but still over 1nm"

      But anyhow, this article is a poorly made piece of shit written by some journo with no clue about the subject, and based on what is essentially a marketing press release, which by the way can be found here:

      The supporting (PR-oriented) website is this: It has nothing of substance, or new (minus the hype) to those of us involved in aviation in a professional capacity, but there you go.

  22. Nya

    Pfft Planes!

    If we're looking at future tech, why not just scrap the things all round and use a space elevator...45mins up into orbit, 15min to platform Oz side, and 45mins back down. Problem done. No space for planes, loads faster, and cleaner all round....a few technical issues to sort, but easier to get done that having things carrying aircraft around built at every airport on the planet....and a damn load more future tech like for 50 years time than what we have now but with fluffy bits!

  23. Christian Berger

    50 years, let me put that in perspective

    50 years ago, people believed we'd now have moon colonies, perhaps even mars colonies.

    50 years ago, if you wanted to make an overseas telephone call you had to actually make an appointment with the phone company for one of the times they had a line. Even then the quality was even worth than CDMA or GSM-half rate cellphones today.

    50 years ago, you were lucky to have access to a telex, so you could telex messages over to another country with virtually no delay.

    Back then it was actually important to be able to go from place to place quickly.

    Today we have ultra cheap communications. I don't need to think when telephoning to the US. It just doesn't cost anything. We can now easily e-mail to anywhere in the world. If we want we are free to videophone. Larger companies have sophisticated tele-presence rooms for conducting international talks.

    There is less and less need for fast travel. And since energy costs rise it is going to become more and more expensive. It may very well be that in 2050 we consider air travel as just some toy for a few rich people who can afford it. We probably won't need it anymore just like we don't need the Concorde anymore.

    There may even be a point from when the world starts to localize again. What's the point of manufacturing a computer in China if the transport is either more expensive than the difference in production costs, or the low-cost (=low energy=slow) transport just takes so long it is outdated when it arrives here?

  24. Derk

    Flying in 2050?

    I don't think its going to be a problem that concerns us really. With the ever increasing population, and it shows no sign of slowing down, you won't be able to get away from it. Everywhere will be the same. Overcrowded hell holes. So there goes the holiday. Perhaps only available for those that have pleased the authorities or met their work quota. Meetings will be conducted on wall size screens, the tech exists now. Until the world sorts out its population problem, every increasing demand for ever decreasing resources, flying will be a memory from the "golden days"

    btw its Tales not Tails. FFS what happened to this world?

  25. Zmodem

    by 2050, planes will have a small nuclear reactor on, that powers the jets and 1 fuel cell would last 20 years, and only fly to contries in UN states, which how they could be today like a submarine with wings and a smaller reactor

    there would be no need to carry any other fuel, and the heat from the reactor and be blasted out the jets aswell

    1. Zmodem

      you just have to change how jet engines work a little, by using electric powered heat rods like a living room heater, instead of naked flame

    2. Charles 9

      IIRC jet engines are still combustion engines so need a hydrocarbon to burn to achieve thrust. We haven't made any real headway in the realm of pure-energy thrusting at this stage of the game, and while we're working on synth-fuel, I don't expect anything practical for a number of years yet. As for electromagnetic reaction-mass thrusting, I think the forces we can bring to bear at this stage are too weak for use in atmosphere.

  26. Gordon 11

    Gliding in ot land...

    IIRC, the Airbus glide into the Azores finished with a few burst types and stopped just short of the end of the runway - and hence just short of the cliff into the Atlantic.

    With no engines it had no reverse thrust to slow it down.

    So, a shorter runway for catapult take-offs, but longer ones needed for landings? What kind of thinking is that?

  27. Robert E A Harvey

    Do away with the aircraft altogether

    Put each passenger in a gel-filled space suit, and fire them balistically to their destination, to be caught in some sort of spiral net-come-magnetic decellaration ramp thing. All the energy expenditure at launch, and much of it recovered on landing.

  28. I think so I am?
    Thumb Up

    Beam me up!

    Sort out matter transport and be done with it. Who want to fly to some place for 10 hrs, when you can be beamed in milliseconds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beam me up!

      Think? Think again. Have you any idea how much data would have to be 'transported' in order to rebuild a human cell, let alone a whole body? Error detection? One single bit ( or quantum ) error and you won't look or think like the same person when you get there. SciFi, yes. Reality, no. There won't be any teleportation.

This topic is closed for new posts.