Flying in the future looks awesome. Can’t wait to do it. (Photo: Airbus)
A long time ago, there likely was someone who predicted: “In airplanes of the future, you’ll have little TVs right in front of you where you can watch movies, play games, and order drinks. You’ll instantly be able to buy and receive your plane tickets right at home before you get to the airport. And you’ll be able to bring on board a little combination typewriter/TV that, as you fly, will connect you to all the information known to man.” And upon hearing such an amazing view of the future, people almost certainly responded: “Wow! Flying in the future is gonna be perfect! I bet no one will ever complain about it!”
Well, here we are in the space-age-sounding year of 2015 and those predictions have come to pass, and … well, no one is calling today’s flying experience “perfect.”
So, yeah, there was once a time the airliners people gripe about today were considered “the airplanes of the future.” But that does not diminish the fun of gawking at the high-tech airplane and passenger cabin concepts floating around out there. Here are some future airplane concepts and designs that are so incredibly cool, we’re taking extra good care of ourselves because we want to be around to experience them — even if we end up complaining about them after.
During aerial golf games, you’ll be able to swing a mile-high club! (Photo: Airbus)
As optimistic as we are about the future, we’re not really expecting TV shows and movies to be much better than they are now. So we’re really excited about the innovations in in-fight entertainment. Airbus envisions an “interaction zone” where passengers can play a “virtual gaming wall,” passing the time with tennis, baseball, and yes, even golf. It looks like a good entertainment option for your flight if you don’t feel like watching TV reruns at your seat. After all, “The Big Bang Theory” will probably still be on in 2030.
Let’s hope self-cleaning seats will also be available for taxis. (Photo: Airbus)
Like with airplanes, we don’t need to know exactly how “self-cleaning seats work,” just as long as they work. Airbus says its airplane seats of the future will be inspired by the leaves of the lotus plant, where water, along with contaminants, roll right off. Seats would work the same way, which we hope will eliminate spills and — ewww! — bodily fluids that have been found on airplane seats of today.
You think passengers are stacked on top of each other now? Wait’ll you see these! (Photo: Factorydesign)
U.K. company Factorydesign has this innovative approach to seating: cocoons. Its Air Lairs turn passenger seats into pods that are then stacked on top of each other double-decker style. Not only does this allow the airline to get more seats on the plane, Factorydesign says, but it lets passengers control their personal space without disturbing other passengers or being disturbed by other passengers. Finally, fliers can get some sense of privacy on a plane without going to the lavatory.
Charging your phone with a solar-powered window shade
The sun will still be around, and let’s hope USB ports will be too once planes start installing these. (Photo: B/E Aerospace)
Aimlessly groping about the underside of your airplane seat in search of an electrical outlet hopefully will be a ritual you won’t have to deal with too much longer. According to Skift, B/E Aerospace has devised airplane window shades with USB ports powered by the sun. “Super efficient thin film solar cells integrated into the window shade convert the high-solar irradiation available at altitude into 8-44 watts of energy,” says B/E Aerospace. Let’s hope the airlines incorporate this technology ASAP, because we’re tired of getting all handsy with our seats!
Carry-ons that are carried on for you
Forget lugging your carry-on bag through the airplane. You’ll be able to drop it in a bin as you board and your bag will meet you at your seat. (Photo: Airbus)
Airbus envisions a future when as soon as you step onto a plane, you place your carry-on into a bin that takes your hand luggage and automatically whisks it to the overhead bin space above your assigned seat. That would do wonders for speeding up boarding and managing that overhead bin space. Downside: No more meeting cool people while helping them get their luggage up into the bin.
What a view! (Photo: Airbus)
Having the only view out the plane be that small window is something we’ll gladly say goodbye to. Several airplane concept designs offer passengers panoramic views of the horizon. Oscar Viñals’s concept for the AWWA-QG Progress Eagle has an available Pilot’s Class in the front with such a view. And Airbus also has plans for panoramic views on its concept planes.
Supersonic cross-country flights
Cross-country flights will last about as long as a movie. (Photo: NASA/Lockheed Martin)
Imagine, yourself leaving on a noon flight out of New York that lands in Los Angeles — at noon! You haven’t lost a minute of the day! That’s a possibility as cross-country supersonic flight inches closer to reality. NASA is working with Lockheed Martin on a supersonic plane that could break the sound barrier while muffling that sonic boom — the loud noise airplanes make when they break the sound barrier and the reason why the FAA bans supersonic civilian flights in American airspace. NASA and Lockheed Martin say their proposed plane could go cross-country in around 2.5 hours. Airbus is also working on a plane that could go from from Los Angeles to Tokyo in six hours. And with airplane-makers actually looking into suborbital hypersonic flights, some predict a time when you could go anywhere in the world in three hours or less.
Casinos in the sky
You’re literally gambling if you get on this plane. (Photo: Airbus)
Airbus believes that airplanes of the future could be so fast there’d be people who choose to take leisurely, luxury flights on airplanes with hotels and, get this, casinos! Fares would be free, as airlines would get their profits from casino winnings. Now that’s a future to look forward to: a plane trip where you could be richer when you land than you were when you took off.
No more just reading the airline’s in-flight magazine; you’ll also be able to read the window. (Photo: Airbus)
Airbus is also working on a smart window that doubles as a touchscreen. Suppose you’re flying over the Eiffel Tower and you can see it out your window. All you have to do is touch where it appears on your window and some relevant information about the tower will pop up, such as how tall it is, when it was built, and where’s the nearest place to get a fruit smoothie (because useless info will still be around in 2050).
Related: No More Aisle: High-Tech Window Seat