Aircraft manufacturer Airbus’s notable patents from the last few years reads like a list of failed aerospace Kickstarters: bicycle saddles instead of real seats, VR headsets to escape the horrors of economy, or acrobatic stacked seating to cram in the punters. Is it possible to go more ambitious? Airbus’s R&D department says thinks so.
A patent filed in 2013 but approved this week (and spotted by Wired) sees Airbus's conceptual attempt at improving aeroplane turnaround times. Rather than dealing with all that hassle of unloading and reloading passengers and baggage, Airbus simply splits the plane in two: a passenger/baggage compartment, and then the main part of the aircraft that does the flying. It’s similar to how shipping containers are hitched onto articulated lorries, only in this case the shipping container is full of people, and the lorry cruises at 30,000 feet.
To Airbus’s credit, this idea would probably improve turnaround time, which in turn would increase profits make flying cheaper for everyone: the more time the aircraft spends flying, the less money an airline wastes.
But equally, it would require redesigning entire aircraft terminals, buying new fleets of planes, and waiting around while a crane winches you into position (not to mention adding a new and exciting kind of airline accident when the passenger compartment suddenly loses its wings). [Wired]