There were a number of stories today in the UK press concerning Airbus's 2050 concept aircraft that it is presenting in anticipation of the Paris Air Show next week. According to the stories in the London Telegraph and the Independent respectively, the 2050 aircraft will have "a 'bionic' shell which turns partially transparent to provide a panoramic view for passengers."
Shades of Wonder Woman's invisible jet.
In addition, the front of the aircraft will be for relaxing, the back for working, and the middle of the aircraft will be, says the Independent, "an 'interactive' zone allows passengers to move around a virtual reality cocoon, with the walls transforming to offer them lifelike experiences such as rounds of golf or video conferences." Okay, not quite a Star Trek holodeck, but close enough.
The Independent article also says that the Airbus 2050 aircraft will incorporate many of the ideas already in service on different aircraft today, such as mood lighting, angled seats, seat canopies and (almost) virtual screens.
The Telegraph adds a bit more flourish to the aircraft's description by saying:
"Central to each plane will be a ‘neural network’ based on the human nervous system. Such a network will create an intuitive interface between each passenger and the plane, and will offer personalised in-flight services such as morphing seats, holographic pods and seamless digital access, all adaptable to individual needs and moods."
You can read the Airbus press release on their 2050 concept aircraft here. You can also watch a video of Airbus's head of engineering Charles Champion talking about the concept plane below.
Of course, operating aircraft are almost never like concept aircraft, kind of like concept cars shown at automobile shows are not the ones you ever see on the roads. How many Boeing 747s have you ever flown with a piano bar in operation in the upper deck, which were the rage when the aircraft first came out? Operational economics tend to override designer dreams.
One other wrinkle, of course, is what will the concept of airport security look like in 2050? Will anybody even want to fly by then?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.