Real-Life Transformers: Trucks Become Planes

January 05, 2016 by Justin Stoltzfus, SjStoltz

Could the truck trailers of the future be modified to fly?

An Airbus patent approved Nov. 24 after 2013 application involves a plan that would put air passengers into a kind of “module” that would be a lot like, well, a shipping container.

The container would be loaded onto the framework of the airplane at go time, snapping into place — similar to Legos.

One of the biggest benefits of this design is that it would greatly reduce operational time for plane loading and unloading. Modules could be modified for passengers, freight, luggage, or anything else. Cutting down on load or board time means airline companies can utilize planes at much higher rates.

Still, there are safety issues to be addressed — and passenger preferences to be surveyed. It’s unlikely people will like the idea of getting loaded into glorified shipping containers, even if they are well appointed.

“We [file patents] to protect our ideas, but many of these never actually develop beyond concept stages,” said Robert Gage, head of media relations for Airbus U.K., in a Dec. 3 CNN piece.

Wired writer John Crucchiola says the module concept isn’t “the craziest idea” but also cites safety and logistics challenges, while also going over the past track record of Airbus engineers, who, he said, seem to “spend a decent amount of time dreaming up ways to make flying even more hellish.”

Don’t look for container modules next time you arrive at the airport, but think about how, in the long term, mass air travel will probably get some kind of makeover.

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