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Airbus Concept Plane Offers Glimpse into the Future of Flight

25 July 2010

Air passengers gained a glimpse into the future of flight as aircraft manufacturer Airbus unveiled its Concept Plane at the Farnborough International Airshow.

The images released illustrate what air transport could look like in 2050 – even 2030 if advancements in existing technologies continue apace. Airbus experts in aircraft materials, aerodynamics, cabins and engines came up with the design which is an ‘engineer’s dream’ to meet the expectations of the passengers of the future. Ultra long and slim wings, semi-embedded engines, a U-shaped tail and light-weight ‘intelligent’ body all feature to further improve environmental performance or ‘eco-efficiency’. The result: lower fuel burn, a significant cut in emissions, less noise and greater comfort.

Charles Champion, Executive Vice President Engineering at Airbus, says: “The Airbus Concept Plane represents an engineer’s dream about what an aircraft could look like in the long term future. It’s not a real aircraft and all the technologies it features, though feasible, are not likely to come together in the same manner. Here we are stretching our imagination and thinking beyond our usual boundaries. With the Airbus Concept Plane we want to stimulate young people from all over the world to engage with us so that we can continue to share the benefits of air transport while also looking after the environment.”

A recent poll suggests that the passengers of 2050 will be more environmentally aware while also recognising the many benefits of air travel. For the British public aged under 35, ‘environmental issues’ are second only to ‘cost’ as a barrier to flying; those aged 55+ rank ease of getting to the airport, flight duration and comfort as being more important. Yet the majority of under-35s also look forward to flying more in the future. Over 40 percent think that for every two flights we make today, we will take at least three by 2050. One in ten of us expects to fly at least twice as much.

Behind the numbers is a belief that we will live in an increasingly multicultural world where friends and family will be based further from home, according to 68 percent; 64 percent cite a growing desire to travel further and see more of our planet; and 54 percent the need for greater flexibility between life at home and place of work. At the same time, independent forecasts predict the global population will almost double – topping nine billion.

Robin Mannings, a leading independent Futurologist, looks ahead: “Most of us want reduced traffic congestion – both on the ground and in the sky – together with improved comfort for a better travelling experience; the poll confirms that. By 2050, we’ll also expect seamless access to a plethora of technology and applications. And ‘flexibility’ will become the new mantra for air travel, with us as passengers choosing levels of speed or luxury in cruise ships of the sky.”

Further future-gazing by Airbus shows blueprints for radical aircraft interiors. In ‘The Future by Airbus’ the company talks of morphing seats made from ecological, self-cleaning materials, which change shape for a snug fit; walls that become see-through at the touch of a button, affording 360 degree views of the world below; and holographic projections of virtual decors, allowing travellers to transform their private cabin into an office, bedroom or Zen garden!

‘Green’ energy sources like fuel cells, solar panels or even our own body heat might provide energy for powering some systems on tomorrow’s aircraft. As aeronautics engineers continue to use nature as a source of inspiration, some of these aircraft may even fly in formation like birds to reduce drag, fuel burn and therefore emissions.

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