Airbus imagines transparent airplane

Airbus' airplane of 2050 is translucent, has "experience zones" instead of old-fashioned classes, and is filled with biomorphic seats that suck the energy from your body and adapt to the shape of your buttocks. [Video Link: Daily Telegraph. Thanks, Jess!]


  1. what if women in the planes are wearing dresses? i can tell it was men who came up with this idea.

  2. Do these “visionaries” ever actually ride in a plane? By 2050 I want a comfortable seat, cold beer, hot coffee, good movies, a faster flight, and NOISE REDUCTION. Not a transparent plane that will give me a severe sunburn!

  3. Why do they make the top transparent? There’s nothing exciting about looking at the sky from an airplane, I can do that at home!

    1. ‘There’s nothing exciting about looking at the sky from an airplane’. OK, leaving aside all the utterly impractical, unrealistic, and unlikely aspects of AirBus’ video — have you ever seen the night sky from a truly dark sky far from cities at 30K+ feet? I might buy a ticket on a trans-Pacific red-eye flight just to experience that, provided the aircraft also shut off the in-flight TVs, cabin lights and other distractions.

  4. Good point victorvodka, all those 30,000 foot-tall men would be able to get some easy upskirt shots.

  5. The most important point is that airlines in the future won’t care about profit margins.

  6. Of course, they are only offering all of these features to stay competitive against the emerging teleportation market.

  7. I have had my suspicions for years, and they have now been confirmed. Airbus is the Matrix.

    I find this very amusing. I, for one, would welcome the chance to fly on such a craft, but there are many folks who are uneasy with powered flight. How much worse for them if the majority of the fuselage is transparent? And that hand recognition point? No, thank you very much. Who wants to place their hand where a bunch of germ-laden crotch scratchers have been before? A terrorist could easily cover his hand with a transparent, impermeable membrane covered with a nasty contact poison. He’s allowed on the plane, no problem, but everybody after him dies. Also, being born in 1969, it is in me to distrust all French motives for almost anything. It’s easy to be one of the top commercial airline manufacturers in the world just so long as you have three governments subsidizing your work. If France, England and Germany pulled their funding from EADS, we would then see how competitive they actually are.

    1. Born in 1969 is some sort of cutoff year for Americans (right?) to hate the French?

      I never understand the American attitude to the French — are they bitter jilted lovers of the 18th-century, newest revolution kid on the block of the 19th, or the disobedient brats who wouldn’t fight and die for the US in the 20th?

      Even more bewildering is this all happened *before* you were born.

      So tell me the unforgivable crimes the French committed against your country in your lifetime, please. (I am neither American nor French)

      On topic, I enjoyed the A330 I flew in — the funky engine angle does make flying more comfortable, a little. And every little bit counts, given the sardine problem.

      The video, though — notice how he says they’ll get rid of ‘class’ seating just to replace it with something functionally identical? Even I know that a term evoking “back of the bus” isn’t a good idea for American audiences!

      1. Anon#14, it’s not an age-cutoff thing. You have to distinguish between

        – hating DeGaulle – that was a mid-20th century thing, mostly forgotten except by some old folks

        – hating Airbus – that’s pretty much timeless, influenced by things like unreliable fly-by-wire, airplanes crashing into the ground at air shows because the ground was too close, and bathroom doors that don’t work reliably.

        – “Freedom Fries” and the rest of the 21st-century anti-French propaganda in the US. That was mostly manufactured by the US right wing because of the Iraqi War. Not only were the French unlikely to cooperate with the US attack, but American images of the French military include the WW2 French Resistance, and Rove/Cheney/etc. really didn’t want any references to the Iraqi Resistance, because they needed to paint invasion-resisting Iraqis as terrorist enemies, not as badass freedom fighters. They had to emphasize all the “France surrenders” stuff instead.

      2. @ Anon #14

        I never understand the American attitude to the French — are they bitter jilted lovers of the 18th-century, newest revolution kid on the block of the 19th, or the disobedient brats who wouldn’t fight and die for the US in the 20th?

        Did it ever occur to you that maybe you shouldn’t swallow the American mass-market media as a high-fidelity representation of on-the-ground American opinion?

        The video, though — notice how he says they’ll get rid of ‘class’ seating just to replace it with something functionally identical? Even I know that a term evoking “back of the bus” isn’t a good idea for American audiences!

        There will still be upper-class seating. You’ll be able to see it as the Virgin Galactic space ships zip overhead the transparent bulkhead.

      3. Anon #14:
        No we Americans come honestly by our dislike of France.
        We inherited that dislike from our English mother-country.
        The animosity has been around since ~1066 AD.

        1. You’re joking, right?

          How is it honest to dislike a nation because of something that happened nearly 1000 years ago? Normandie and England don’t even exist the same way politically now. The animosity between the French and the English probably started with the 100 Year’s War continued with the Napoleonic wars. Any Americans that dislike the French do it because their televisions told them to do it.

          Anyway, if they do build this invisible plane, can I park the transparent Buick in long-term parking?

        2. The same English mother-country you were so happy about in the 1770s while France was sending you money to fight them?

    2. “A terrorist could easily cover his hand with a transparent, impermeable membrane covered with a nasty contact poison.”

      He could just do that with the handle of any door in any public building. Why is it that you willingly open doors used by thousands of people, but balk at touching a biometric device because it’s used by thousands of people?

    3. @jeligula – The subsidies argument has been going on between Boeing and Airbus , France and the US, for decades now. The French are pretty protectionist, but so too are the Americans.

  8. Who needs all these creature comforts when Scotty can just beam me from place to place instantaneously?

    1. While we’re all waiting for the day that Scotty can beam us from place to place instantaneously, best to send him back in time and show us how to make transparent aluminum.

  9. I toured Boeing’s factory last year where they were building the 787, and I was impressed. The new plane has a lower cabin altitude (it’s not as if you’re atop quite as tall a mountain, meaning less fatigue), better cabin humidity because of the composite fuselage (they aren’t worried about potential corrosion like they do with aluminum planes), smart lighting that trains your body to the timezone you’re flying to, and the coolest paper innovation: mandatory seating restrictions.

    “What witchery is this you speak of?” I can hear yu muttering. Basically, they make each purchaser contractually obligated to a certain seating plan that preserves an amount of legroom and arm room similar to current day business class. “Why?” I’m glad you asked! Boeing wants travelers to make booking decisions based on whether or not one of their planes is available. This seems to be a clever strategy, and while I’m sure enterprising airlines will find a clever way out of this eventually, there should be a nice period where traveling will be rather a bit less shitty.

    I, for one, welcome our new fuel efficienter composite overlords.

    1. You’ve got it backwards: if you limit your market to “people who will be able to afford enough fuel to fly in 2050” it becomes much easier to splurge for extras like transparent fuselages and decent legroom.

      1. Good Point. By 2050, flying will probably be as common as driving a Maybach or Ferrari is today.

        1. Figuring out how to move around in 3-D is much harder than trying to move around on a 2-D plane. Based on my experience with flight simulators, if we’re all flying, we’d better have some awesome AI assistance. Even a little crash is dangerous when you’re ten metres up.

  10. Who is still paying these guys to make these wonderful plans that no airline would ever dream of putting into practice?

    Seriously, none of these great passenger-centric ideas is ever, ever, ever put into practice. All that extra space could be stuffed with 16-inch-wide, semi-standing seats and triple or quadruple the passenger load. And that’s all that matters.

  11. A friend of mine with a brother-in-law who’s an engineer for Airbus told me to stay away from new Airbuses. Now I know why.

    (Seconding the noise reduction mention. Seriously.)

  12. The airliners of 2011 seems to be largely the boeing 737, which has been in operation since 1968 (43 years ago), and the Airbus A320, which has been in operation since 1988 (23 years ago).

    The two planes, despite being separated by 20 years of development time, are all but indistinguishable from a passenger’s perspective.

    I can only imagine the actual planes of 2050 look exactly like the planes of 2011, except with higher-resolution screens stuck in the back of the headrests, based on the development we’ve seen over the past 40 years.

  13. I could see this working well in a THX-1138 dystopia. Unless they’ve found another way to make anyone want to get in something like that.

  14. Invisible airplane? Wonder Woman had one of those decades ago! [Insert LOLcat joke here!]

    However, that amount of legroom on a plane is clearly science fiction, along with the “high-tech shield in front of the passenger harvesting body heat to power the airplane.”

  15. Reminds me a lot of a plane that was in one of those books about “TheFuture” I had when I was a kid. As usual, according to that book we should already have these planes.

  16. Just make them 3 times as fast, silent and then we can talk about running the damn thing from my farts.

  17. I would think that instead of actual windows, those would be curved HD screen showing images piped in from the outside. Far less drag and material tech. Leaving the outer skin smooth.

    They could adjust the ‘show’ for night sky viewing, like a planetarium show.

  18. Wonder Woman has an invisible plane, I’ll fly with her instead. Something about an invisible French AirBus that gives me the creeps.

  19. Ha ha zones, that’s a good one. That will last about two seconds after an American carrier starts jamming more seats in there. Good luck with that French accent.

  20. the heat of your body can be used to power the aircraft

    Right. An A380 (for example) uses four jet turbines to deliver around 80,000 pounds of thrust, and can carry nearly its own weight in fuel.

    How about we use some miniscule amount of that to power the aircraft, and drop the bullshit?

  21. “…shape of your buttocks…” guess the TSA is collecting some market research data then. *rimshot*

  22. It’s easy to be one of the top commercial airline manufacturers in the world just so long as you have three governments subsidizing your work. If France, England and Germany pulled their funding from EADS, we would then see how competitive they actually are.

    Competitive with whom? Boeing? They (and, of course, other major defense contractors) receive massive subsidies from the US government too. Seems like there are agreements between Boeing, Airbus and various governments regarding subsidies that are routinely broken by both sides. Why should one side back down in this situation when they would find themselves at a severe disadvantage?

    No idea what the aviation world would look like without said subsidies. Maybe smaller manufacturers would get more of a chance to compete (do _they_ have competitive products)? Maybe innovation would stop? No more giant, long-term projects? Who knows…

  23. What planet is this guy living on? Given the way that air travel is headed, I imagine the plane of 2050 to more closely resemble the decor of the C-123 in Con Air.

  24. IF they really ever build this … I am 100% certain they will STILL put ashtrays in there, and immediately a ‘non smoking’ sticker next to it. I was shocked to find that the new A380 still has ash trays!

    Other concern: ever noticed how dull the small plasticky windows on older aircrafts look? Now, imagine that on a bigger scale :D

  25. Back when Jet Blue was just getting started they had ads that showed how nice they were. Passengers could get beverages for free, they didn’t have to eat their knees. Flight attendants smiles at them. The ads themselves won some kind of award.

    I happened to have lunch with a couple of bigwigs from a couple of ad agencies and the conversation turned to these commercials. These guys didn’t understand them. Were they ironic? Was there a subtle joke going on? I was baffled at their reaction for a bit until I realized that they had never, in their life, flown coach.

    I think those idiots designed this plane.

    And seriously, do you really trust yourself to be lifted 6 1/2 miles in the air and returned safely to earth by something designed by these crazy-ass people who obviously have no working knowledge of an airplane?

  26. Personally, I’m not comfortable with seats that “harvest” energy from my body…what an unfortunate (and creepy) choice of buzzwords.

  27. @caipirina: the “ash trays” are not for cigarette ash, but for Americans to put their used chewing gum in, instead of sticking it under the seats.

  28. I believe that going to the bathroom in this future airplane would something worthy of years of psychotherapy…

  29. Imagine the radiation levels (cosmic rays) coming from the transparent plane.

    Currently, a transatlantic flight gives you radiation equivalent to between two to three chest x-rays.

    Is the transparent top able to block more of that radiation?

    1. Is the transparent top able to block more of that radiation?

      Depends what it’s made of. X-rays aren’t visible.

  30. I hear they’re going to put this into full production right after they’re finished launching their flying car initiative.

  31. How about you design a plane that gives me a couch to lay on, a TV with netflix, and a ticket price of 100$…

    then we’ll talk.

    I need a transparent plane about as much as a fish needs a bicycle.

  32. I prefer the fifth element way of traveling, where you get shoved in a tube, pass out and wake up once you’ve arrived.

  33. If we are still traveling on airplanes instead of using teleportation by 2050, I am convinced that the best way for air travel will be in some type of unconscious state. Just think of it, you pack your bags, lie down in your bed, take a sedative, and the airline arrives to retrieve your luggage and pop you in a travel tube that keeps you in stasis during your flight. At your destination you are placed in your hotel bed and you awake rested and ready to go.

    Benefits: The security monkeys could scan the baggage and travelers to their hearts content, the airlines could stack passengers like cordwood in planes that are little more than cargo haulers, and travellers wouldn’t have to deal with long wait lines and jetlag.

    Drawbacks: Creepy baggage handlers now have access to unconscious people instead of just undergarments, lost luggage would be a real bummer, and the crappy in-flight meals industry would collapse.

  34. Honestly, this is the worst idea ever.
    It turns out, at the heights that planes fly it is really bright. Everyone would get headaches and the stewards/stewardesses would suffer series eye damage.

    Not to mention that it’s already hard enough to sleep on air planes.

  35. Experience Zone 5 is for people who are going to cover their eyes and scream for the entire duration of the flight.

  36. Lotta comments and at least one disagreement over a video that’s nothing more than a lot of marketing hot air. Not only that, but those pointless hand-reading things have been just-around-the-corner for at least 30 years.

  37. “…remove the old class system…”

    The airlines are going to do away with the best method they have for gouging customers? I haven’t verified this but I bet there’s a ton of profit in charging high overhead for so little in return, other than vanity.

  38. There seems to be a ever spiraling degree of futurist propaganda/BS. IE flying cars by 1990, moon-base by 2010, etc, etc. On the one hand, this ‘seems’ like a neat concept but on the other hand the reality is that by 2050, this thing will have to run on people power, solar, or fusion (another one of those, sooner than you think technologies). Conclusion, this is a big waste of everybody’s time and effort. I feel for the concept designers who seem to be so far out of touch with reality that they must exist in a wonderfully delusional state to even get this far in the process, and don’t even get me started on the PR people and all that goes with that who had to eat shit and just nod along as if anything they did to promote this ‘pie in the sky’ would have the slightest bearing upon the future. Cool graphics but still, what a bunch of horse crap. Besides why in the hell would be need this thing in 2050 when we will be fighting off hordes of zombie-robot-mutant-ninjas with nothing but our wits, an old shotgun and a picture of some chick (or dude) we hardly even know thing one about?

    Also seconding Gulliver’s take on the ‘anti-French’ thing. What the media says about this country is a totally different thing than what exists here, on the ground at least. Sure there are dolts that toe the line and hate French anything just ’cause the boob-tube said so, but there are also those that laugh at these punditoid jerks, backslapping politicos and moronic sheeple for being so ignorant and hateful. Deep down, the US really loves France and that is what is important to this particular off-topic convo.

  39. In 2100 we look back on this video of what the future will be like and laugh. Instead, I’m envisioning flight attendants with cattle prods.

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