Who needs flying cars when you can have flying trains?
For years people have been saying “we were promised flying cars!” We have not got them yet, but we may get what Marie Mawad and Ania Nussbaum of Bloomberg call flying trains.
It is actually a really clever idea from the AKKA group called “Link & Fly” which separates the fuselage of an airplane from wings. No more grabbing a cab or bus to get to the airport; instead, the fuselage sits on a cart and magically transforms into a train. You pick it up at a downtown station, and then ride to the airport. During the ride, the friendly customs and immigration people do a retina scan and by the time you get to the airport, everyone is already good to go. Watch the award winning video, it is quite amazing:
AKKA sees this as a short-range airplane; Bloomberg reports:
Similar to Airbus’ A320 jet in size and target usage, the Akka Link & Fly carriage for short-range flights carries 162 passengers and the seats can be taken out to move freight instead. With the wings clipped on, and the engines fixed on top, the design has wingspan of about 49 meters, is 34 meters long and 8 meters high.
It is a fascinating concept that could change planes the way containers changed ships; instead of wasting all that time deplaning, unloading luggage, cleaning and reloading, you just swap out the incoming plane’s fuselage for the outgoing one, essentially containerizing the passengers. Turnaround time is significantly reduced.
It might end the horror show of people walking through the first class and business section to get to the economy, which is known to increase air rage; just like trains, you board in the appropriate car. They might even fly on separate planes.
Of course, it will also change airports; you won’t need fancy terminals because nobody is waiting in them or going through security in them. Because everyone is zipping out to the airport on high speed train/fuselages, they can be located far further out of town, reducing the problems of noise and local pollution.
Of course, the TreeHugger position is that Flying is Dying, that we shouldn’t be doing this anymore because of the carbon footprint. But that’s another virtue of Link & Fly; train and plane become indistinguishable. You might book the short express trip that flies or the longer, lower carbon (and possibly cheaper) ride on rails. As rail networks expand we might get a totally seamless transition from air to rail.
And flying out of grand old downtown train stations would be glorious.