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Project Envisions Modular Aircraft That Double as Train Cars

Unknown Lamer posted about 10 months ago | from the fuselage-fell-from-plane dept.

Transportation 146

cylonlover writes "Air travel today is a nightmare of long drives to crowded airports, long queues that move at a snail's pace, and long, boring waits in identical lobbies drinking overpriced coffee. It would be so much easier and less frustrating if catching a plane were like catching a train. If Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has its way, its Clip-Air project will one day produce modular aircraft that will allow you to board a plane at a London railway station and disembark in the middle of Rome without ever setting foot in an air terminal."

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146 comments

just like on tv (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about 10 months ago | (#43984273)

Someone's been watching too much galaxy railways.

Re:just like on tv (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984507)

Anime from 2003? Unlikely. Try Chuggington's "Action Chugger".

Re:just like on tv (1)

asm2750 (1124425) | about 10 months ago | (#43984865)

After looking at the aircraft I was thinking someone was watching too much Mobile Suit Gundam.

Re:just like on tv (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#43985081)

Someone's been watching too much galaxy railways.

Notice that the article says that you disembark in Rome, not on Romulus.

Multi-mode is old news (4, Interesting)

Nexus7 (2919) | about 10 months ago | (#43984279)

Truck to train has been going on for decades. A more feasible approach is to have buses that can be driven on to, or hooked up to trains. It wouldn't cover the kinds of distances planes can, but it would happen a lot sooner.

Which comes first, the lithium-xxx battery that will last 7 days, or the plane-train?

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984413)

how about maglev trains in very low airpressured tubes ?

Re:Multi-mode is old news (3, Interesting)

rioki (1328185) | about 10 months ago | (#43984689)

I totally agree with you on that, at least for areas that have no body of water in the way, high speed trains is the way to go. Maglev is currently and may be never an economical option, the tracks are to expensive. In current designs the train is almost passive and the track contains all the coils and electricity. Which results in loots of expensive copper that is only used for a very short time. With conventional trains the track is relatively cheap, so expect more conventional high speed trains, maybe even in vacuum / low pressure tubes. The Swiss are actively researching such an option, since they need to build a tunnel for large parts of their network why not just build it a little deeper and longer and depressurize it. The train running through it will be running on conventional tracks, even in parts not covered by a vacuum tube.

In addition the solution in the article / video over-engineers the problem. The places where you need a train/airplane cross over, just let the train "go right into the terminal" like any connecting flight. I probably will not have a direct connection anyway, so what is the big deal if I change plane to plane or train to plane. It also adds an additional problem, if I need to fly Berlin - Frankfurt - Huston - Austin, with the train solution I get the additional ride to the center of town instead of switching in the airport. Now if they would implement baggage check in for trains...

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984953)

Now if they would implement baggage check in for trains...

Or remove baggage check for planes.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 10 months ago | (#43985705)

The places where you need a train/airplane cross over, just let the train "go right into the terminal" like any connecting flight.

Isn't that pretty common anyway?

Of the five airports in London, four (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and City) have railway stations directly underneath, within or adjacent to the terminal buildings. That's also the case for most large / modern airports I've used in Europe.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

Megane (129182) | about 10 months ago | (#43987049)

if I need to fly Berlin - Frankfurt - Huston - Austin, with the train solution I get the additional ride to the center of town instead of switching in the airport.

...at which point you find out that there's no way to get anywhere else without waiting half an hour for a bus, which even with a transfer or two could still end up miles away from where you need to be. FYI, the Amtrak station is west of downtown, the hotels are on the east side of downtown, and there's no rail anywhere near the airport anyhow unless someone pays big money to build it. Even then you would still have to wait for a slot between scheduled trains, because you can't just pass another train anywhere you want.

There's a good reason why airports in Texas have very large parking lots around them where you can park for a week while you're away. Rail stations (other than commuter rail) don't, because it's not a popular mode of transportation. And don't say "Look! Austin has a commuter rail line!" because it only runs at commuter times on weekdays, or on Saturday afternoons/evenings for downtown alcohol consumption, and has a weird path due to using existing local freight tracks.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985951)

Like some sort of hyper loop perhaps?

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984571)

I recall futuristic books proposing vacuum tubes with shuttles that take containers, big enough for a bunch of people. If you're a frequent traveler, and suitably flush, well, perhaps you can have your own container with all the amenities. For bonus points, make the shuttles levitate magnetically inside their tubes. No clumsy air travel needed. But really now, do you want not merely travel cattlecar style, but in a sealed can?

Besides, it'll bring the airport hassle closer to home, instead of doing away with it. To do the latter, all you need to do is ditch at least half the regulations (starting with all the secret ones) and, oh, just do away with the TSA and fire the goons wholesale. Into the sun or something. For the environment and all that.

So this is a good example of trying to use technology to fix something that cannot be fixed by technology alone. The trouble is in the laws and policies purporting to "secure" us, in the politicians heads and their belief they're actually doing something good with their measures, when in fact they all achieve the opposite. So this concept, while nice, and unoriginal, will prove unable to deliver on the promise even if the tech side works out.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#43984651)

Truck to train works because the additional weight and complexity is less expensive than the step of unloading and reloading, or of the additional fuel and manpower to just leave it in a truck.

I'm not sure the same economics hold for an airplane. This thing would need a reinforced mating surface on the bottom for train mode, one on the top for plane mode, and then hardware on the plane to accept the mount. That additional weight and complexity - not to mention design compromises that need to be made to accept the module - is going to make this plane more expensive to fly and maintain than a traditional plane. To be air-certified and maintained, the modules themselves will have to be considerably more expensive than normal rail cars.

Even in a best-case scenario, where everyone headed to a specific destination lives along the same train line, I don't see this working out economically.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (3, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43984725)

If you need confirmation, observe that a lot of cargo is moved by plane already and none of it is moved by a system like the one they're describing, even though it'd be far simpler than doing it with passengers. If the engineering and economics don't work for dead weight, what hope do they have at working for people?

Re:Multi-mode is old news (2)

Migraineman (632203) | about 10 months ago | (#43984879)

Go to a rail yard and watch how they handle the cars. I can't imagine that *any* aircraft component would survive such abuse.

The idea-guys also gloss over the support infrastructure required to keep the meatbags comfy and, more importantly, alive. Does each pod have an APU and fuel such that it can supply electricity, power, environmental control, etc? How about toilets? Did we neglect those?

Air and rail are not tremendously compatible modes of transportation.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (2)

robthebloke (1308483) | about 10 months ago | (#43985071)

This thing would need a reinforced mating surface on the bottom for train mode, one on the top for plane mode, and then hardware on the plane to accept the mount

Or you could go for the low cost option, and simply form each passenger into the shape of a UPS parcel....

Re:Multi-mode is old news (2)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 10 months ago | (#43985321)

Agreed. The requirements are completely different. For starters airliners need to be pressurized so the connections would be very complex and heavy. Aircraft efficiency depends strongly on weight - no airline would want to spend the extra fuel that this weight would require. No passenger would want to ride in a train with airline type seating.

Just silly.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

Geste (527302) | about 10 months ago | (#43985387)

The key to containerization's success and current ubiquity was the development of size/length/connection standards in the 60s.

I had pondered this concept before -- even as a way to load people remotely at the airport -- but the chances of ever developing a standard that would work across aircraft manufacturers, models, classes (widebody) and carriers seems very remote. I could maybe see this as a limited extension of somebody's national rail system, but can't see it becoming ubiquitous .

Re:Multi-mode is old news (2)

c (8461) | about 10 months ago | (#43985583)

Even in a best-case scenario, where everyone headed to a specific destination lives along the same train line, I don't see this working out economically.

Even if it could work economically, the scheduling would be a bitch.

Trains don't really have a lot of flexibility in their schedules, particularly if they share the track with freight and whatnot. There's already a huge problem with people sitting around on tarmacs waiting for takeoff and that's just one mode of transportation. Mix in another mode with different constraints and I don't think it'll be pretty.

In other words, airport terminals and train stations are probably still needed to act as a passenger buffer.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

Megane (129182) | about 10 months ago | (#43987187)

This. Trains can't just pull out and drive anytime they feel like it. Even when there are two tracks to allow a train in each direction, you still can't just pass a train that's in front of you. And even if you could use that second track to pass, you still have to be sure there isn't a train already coming the other way. You absolutely positively do not want head-on collisions on railroad track, even with small 2-car commuter trains, and hitting a stopped train isn't much better.

Freight can wait an hour or two to wait for another train to move out of the way, passengers can't. That is likely to be the main flaw in this idea, at least for passenger travel.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

quacking duck (607555) | about 10 months ago | (#43985825)

And that's even forgetting for a moment that this idea would be nixed on anti-terrorist grounds. A plane above a certain size does not leave the confines of a secure airport when on the ground, but it's nearly impossible to effectively monitor and protect the entire length of a train track, so these capsules could easily pick up some unwanted package while on rails en route to the airport. There'd be a hull inspection before being mated to a flyer and taking off, but there's lots of other things it can damage before it gets to that point.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 10 months ago | (#43984661)

a key difference would be the conex boxes are fully supported from underneath in both cases.

this would be suspending a conex box with pins in the corner dogeyes...which they already do, and is fine, for moving or lifting it between truck and train...but i have my doubts about it when suspsending it from an aircraft 30000 feet up for a few hours. Complete with turbulence, vibration, shear forces all working on those pins. And if one should fail...it would be catastrophic for both the module (gravity is a B) and the carrier aircraft (now unbalanced and violently changed mass/lift relationship).

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 10 months ago | (#43984745)

Multimodal transport is not really suitable for moving people. One of the issues is that people want to move fast and on schedule, without having to wait on other parts of the train to arrive. Also a passenger train usually offers more comfort and space than a bus, allow for seats to face one another, and allow passengers to walk a few coaches down to the restaurant, like many long-distance trains offer.

For freight it's better - as long as weight is not an issue, so you see multimodal shipping using containers limited to road, rail and water. A shipping container is not taken on board of a plane, the box itself weighs about 3800 kg (40' container). Reloading the cargo on the plane is cheaper overall (and air cargo lots are usually far smaller than complete container loads - and you really don't want to fly empty space, which happens when not enough cargo can be consolidated).

And even when it comes to freight, usually the truck is not taken on the train, only the cargo container. This truck is an expensive piece of equipment, and requires a dedicated driver to be present. So trucks on the trains is only done in special cases, like when crossing the Alps, or the Channel tunnel.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

Nexus7 (2919) | about 10 months ago | (#43985073)

I can see all of these problems being addressed if there is demand, especially with the kinds of money train-plane will involve.

For example, people want to move fast and on schedule - so use the bus as a feeder from downtown, suburban, or whatever areas are far away from the rail station. Drive the bus onto the train - you don't need Greyhound-style 45' buses, just Sprinters or something lighter. Once the train in under-way, passengers and leave the bus and use restrooms, pantry cars, etc. on the train. As for waiting for other buses, the train can carry a few buses, and me mostly regular passenger rail cars, so it isn't waiting on many buses. Can this really be worse than the flight delays these days?

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 10 months ago | (#43985809)

use the bus as a feeder from downtown, suburban, or whatever areas are far away from the rail station. Drive the bus onto the train

That's not simple. The only train I know of that carries buses is the Eurotunnel shuttle through the Channel Tunnel. The vehicles are super-wide -- not compatible with most railways -- to allow room for relatively quickly loading and unloading. It still takes a while to load though -- not as long as loading a normal vehicle train, but much longer than a passenger train (under 2 minutes).

If the journey is short, it's probably faster to drive the bus to the airport. If it's long, it's probably better to drive the bus to the railway station and let everyone get off. Not everyone wants to go in the same direction! (If they do, perhaps extend the railway.)

Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

mdielmann (514750) | about 10 months ago | (#43985049)

Which comes first, the lithium-xxx battery that will last 7 days, or the plane-train?

You have have the battery today...by hooking a number of batteries in series, in a modular fashion.

Re:Multi-mode is old news (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 10 months ago | (#43985219)

Truck to train has been going on for decades. A more feasible approach is to have buses that can be driven on to, or hooked up to trains. It wouldn't cover the kinds of distances planes can, but it would happen a lot sooner.

Which comes first, the lithium-xxx battery that will last 7 days, or the plane-train?

In the vein of 'already old news', why are they taking on the additional hurdles involved in building the modularity into the plane(an area where weight, fuel economy, regulatory certification, etc. are especially stringent.

Actually boarding an aircraft is pretty damn painless. Walk up the ramp, sit down. It's the rest of the airport that kind of blows, so why go after the aircraft?

Even today, it's pretty common(at smaller, less capital-intensive, occassionally thatch-roofed) airports for the plane to show up, a stairs-on-wheels unit to be rolled over, and the passengers then walk, or get bussed, depending on the size of the tarmac, to the plane.

If you wanted to adapt that to a larger airport, a small subway system(either connected to existing mass transit, or to one or more park-and-transfer locations) with pop-up exits to board planes when they arrive wouldn't be rocket surgery. It'd take a bunch of rebar and excavation equipement; but absolutely zero messing around with aircraft designs and all off-the-shelf engineering.

just move the chairs Re:Multi-mode is old news (1)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | about 10 months ago | (#43985235)

Really, what you want is a layout of chairs on the train that can easily be moved onto a plane's fuselage by a device that needn't fly. You don't want to make the train into a plane, you just want a convenient way to move people and their carryons into the fuselage without making them lift their buttocks an extra time.

Not a fucking chance. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984293)

See above.

bad idea (5, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#43984303)

I don't want railway stations to have airport-level security.

POD people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984349)

Looks like the passengers in the pods wouldn't be able to get to the cockpit, so they couldn't take over flying the aircraft. So they could blow up the plane, but not fly it into $avatar_of_the_great_satan. So this probably would fly, security-wise.

Re:POD people (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | about 10 months ago | (#43984465)

They could still blow it up and send debris crashing and burning into buildings.

Re:POD people (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 10 months ago | (#43985545)

Or they could just cut out the middle man and send the bomb directly to the building...

Is there an Occam's Razor for overly complicated terrorist plots?

Re:POD people (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 10 months ago | (#43984707)

Looks like the passengers in the pods wouldn't be able to get to the cockpit, so they couldn't take over flying the aircraft. So they could blow up the plane, but not fly it into $avatar_of_the_great_satan. So this probably would fly, security-wise.

Your first mistake: thinking that security theater has anything to do with actual security.

Re:bad idea (4, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 10 months ago | (#43984797)

That's sad, because it's already on its way. It's just a matter of time before a government agent will be asking for "your papers" no matter how you travel in the US.

http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/austin/tsa-does-surprise-check-at-lamar-amtrak [kxan.com]

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985929)

Yeah, checking passengers for explosives as they get on a passenger train makes perfect sense, right after they secure the miles and miles of track.

Re:bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985129)

You must be a terrorist. Go report yourself to NSA, now!

Oh, wait...

Re:bad idea (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 10 months ago | (#43985281)

I'm pretty sure using the internet at all pretty much qualifies as reporting oneself to the NSA at this point.

Bloody idiots (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984323)

The queues are there for a reason: To create the impression of safety. How are you going to do that if anyone can plant something on the "plane" while it's waiting in a train station? If you go through with this plan, you won't make air travel more convenient, you'll inconvenience train travelers.

Re:Bloody idiots (2)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 10 months ago | (#43984353)

The queues are there for a reason: To create the impression of safety.

That, and to give a shitload of people jobs selling useless so-called "duty-free" stuff and selling overpriced food while you're forced to wait.

Re:Bloody idiots (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 10 months ago | (#43984407)

There's already airport-like security for the Chunnel; if the "special" line's platform is isolated, it doesn't affect other trains or users of the station.

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#43985221)

The queues are there for a reason: To create the impression of safety.

Also, to present a highly populated and completely unsecured target to any bad guy who decides to exploit it. That's one of the many ways in which US-style airport security is sheer idiocy.

Of course, for mentioning this, I'm sure I'll end up on somebody's watchlist somewhere. Hi NSA!

Re:Bloody idiots (1)

Like2Byte (542992) | about 10 months ago | (#43986025)

The queues are there for a reason: To create the impression of safety.

Also, to present a highly populated and completely unsecured target to any bad guy who decides to exploit it. That's one of the many ways in which US-style airport security is sheer idiocy.

Of course, for mentioning this, I'm sure I'll end up on somebody's watchlist somewhere. Hi NSA!

Recent news reports suggest that you - probably - already are.

{sigh}

Won't happen (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about 10 months ago | (#43984337)

This just pushes security out to the edges. It would cost too much to set up airport-level security (theater) checkpoints at each train stop, not to mention monitoring the entire track for unauthorized entry/egress. And it would bring the levels of of misery for train travel up to the standards for air travel rather than making travel more pleasant again.

Nice idea, but not compatible with modern reality.

Re:Won't happen (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 10 months ago | (#43984777)

Such trains would not stop at every small station, rather at the major stations only. And there you quickly rack up the volume to set up airport-style security without costs going over the top (well that is if you consider the current security to be a cost effective operation, of course).

Re:Won't happen (1)

neonKow (1239288) | about 10 months ago | (#43985495)

Or have the security on the train itself? Maybe have everyone enter at the front half of the train, process people in a line, and proccess people can board the rear cars?

Then at least you'd be travelling to the plane while you're forced to wait for security.

But but but but... (4, Funny)

lxs (131946) | about 10 months ago | (#43984363)

Without airport terminals where will the passengers take off their shoes, get anally probed and robbed of their cutlery and liquids? How will they lose their luggage?

Somebody obviously hasn't thought this plan through!

Re:But but but but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985227)

Anally probed?? If that were the case, the lines in San Francisco would be epic-- and people would be running to get back in line.

A bloody useless idea (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 10 months ago | (#43984377)

What problem does this solve? Now you would just stand in line and wait in a terminal in the city center, instead of at the airport. Who cares. It's still gonna be a boring terminal. The traveltime to the airport is not reduced. The security and check in are not reduced. Flight time is not reduced. But you will get some additional technical checks that can only start after clicking this train onto that plane - which means I am there, waiting.

This just adds more weight to the plane. Makes travel time longer. Also, it means I can stretch my legs even less, as I have to wait for half an hour after landing until I can get up.

Re:A bloody useless idea (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#43984669)

Not that I think this idea has any merit at all, but you could do the security screening on the train portion of the journey.

Re:A bloody useless idea (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 10 months ago | (#43984927)

What, bring the metal detectors and baggage scanners in the plane? Are they portable, or built-in? That's gonna give you a little extra weight, or someone needs to carry the damned things into and out of the plane.

Re:A bloody useless idea (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 10 months ago | (#43985243)

Again, not that I think this idea has any merit, but the scanners and other weighty things could be part of the fixed structure of the train - they do not need to be on the part that attaches to the plane.

Re:A bloody useless idea (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 10 months ago | (#43985075)

THAT would indeed be a good idea. But it would still be easier to drop the walking payload off next to the plane and let it board itself than constructing pressure-proof trains.

Re:A bloody useless idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984743)

It doesn't matter how inconvenienced you are. Airline profits increase.

Really crappy aerodynamics (4, Insightful)

eman1961 (642519) | about 10 months ago | (#43984389)

Boeing have spent billions on creating plastic airplanes to get more efficient travel. This thing would fly like a brick.

Re:Really crappy aerodynamics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984617)

If Boeing is involved, it would fly like a brick on fire.

Missing a few requirements (1)

jareth (124708) | about 10 months ago | (#43984443)

The article focuses on the technical aspects: can it be done. Yes, I'm sure it can be done. But that wouldn't suddenly turn air travel into rail travel.

Think on the differences here for a bit. Air travel security is very tight because of the security risks. As much as some may call it security theater, there are real risks with getting that many people together on an airplane loaded with fuel which can go anywhere. This proposal does nothing to mitigate those security issues, so none of those security precautions common in airports would likely change.

Re:Missing a few requirements (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | about 10 months ago | (#43984687)

As much as some may call it security theater, there are real risks with getting that many people together on an airplane loaded with fuel which can go anywhere.

None of those risks are solved by the security theater that is being done.

Re:Missing a few requirements (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 10 months ago | (#43984773)

On average there are more people on a train than on an airplane. True that you can't fly a train into a building but derailing a train in the center Berlin, Paris or New York would still create some serious damage (more infrastructure than people). If you look at the risks involved the New York subway should have tighter security than the NY Airport, but that is just not feasible, to many people going through the system. It works because the amount of people to move through an airport is "not that much" (in comparison) and people have come to accept it. They think that it is for their own good, since when things go wrong on an airplane it makes the news for the next year, not so true for trains.

As Reliable as Swiss Trains? (1)

guttentag (313541) | about 10 months ago | (#43984485)

If they could make planes that ran on time like Swiss trains [stackexchange.com] , they might be on to something. Then again, it would be natural for a Swiss engineer to be frustrated with the inefficiencies of air travel and wonder why planes couldn't be more like trains... so that may be where this thinking comes from.

TFA says the idea is to be able to attach multiple modules to a plane, whether they are passengers or cargo, instead of behind a locomotive. It's my understanding that cargo flights have to be carefully balanced with loads strapped in place so they won't shift, whereas that's not a necessity on a train. This would add some complexity to the idea, but would be made more complex by the fact that you would have to know what position that cargo module was going to be in (left/center/right) and properly balance the module against whatever was going to be in the other modules. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's not as simple as bolting a rail car to the underbelly of an airplane.

isn't it the same? (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | about 10 months ago | (#43984531)

doesn't the rail station just become the air terminal then? I am under the assumption that the crowded conditions at airports is due to all the people who want to get on a plane. If you get on your plane at a train station, then you will see the same people there.

Would work better with freight (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 10 months ago | (#43984557)

Seems to me that this would be a much more feasible idea if utilized for freight. We already have RO/RO container ships. Something modualr that could fit on train tracks, truck, ship, and on/within an aircraft fuselage would make international shipping much easier.

Re:Would work better with freight (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985781)

There are also air containers -- they have two corners cut off at ~45 degrees so they fit in the cargo hold (which is semicircular in cross section). Much smaller than sea/rail/truck containers and, I believe made from aluminum for light weight.

This rail-air idea is (in part) about improving the utilization of the airframe -- reduce the turnaround time at the airport.

My idea for turnaround (has been told to many people for ~20 years) is to have the complete aircraft interior slide out one end of the airplane and be replaced with a similar unit. When you walk to the gate in the airport, you put your luggage into the overhead (or stow below) and then take your assigned seat--all inside the terminal. The airplane has a swinging nose (like C-5 Galaxy) and the arriving passenger module with all the seats, floor, people and their luggage is rolled into the terminal. As soon as the plane is empty, the interior module (that you have settled into) is rolled into the plane, the nose is closed, and you taxi out to the runway.

When you arrive at your destination, your interior module rolls into the airport, and you can leave at your convenience. If you stowed luggage below, you go down a flight of stairs/elevator and walk over to the now-opened-up luggage area in the hold. Gets rid of the whole checked-baggage handling (and ruining) that we currently have.

Would work equally well with a rear loader like the C-130 Hercules where the rear door opens wide enough to drive a small tank into the plane.

Not realistic. (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 10 months ago | (#43984591)

Sounds like a "Johnny Canal" [imdb.com] - type solution. Sure it's great if you're traveling from London to Rome. But what if your trip is more complicated, and realistic, like Tulsa to Naples. My point is, it will be a rare thing that a traveler will be able to board a "pod" and end up at their destination, without ever leaving their "pod".

Re:Not realistic. (1)

ctid (449118) | about 10 months ago | (#43985967)

What definition of "realistic" are you using? I would guess a journey between London and Rome is hundreds, if not thousands, of times more common than a journey between Tulsa and Naples.

Cattle Cars (4, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about 10 months ago | (#43984683)

Or containerized freight. We've sunk about as low as we can.

In the industry, they refer to passengers as SLF (self-loading freight).

Travel by container? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 10 months ago | (#43984771)

Unconditioned metal box with no seats, no windows, and no restroom. Oh, well, I guess it couldn't be any worse than flying RyanAir in coach.

Decentralization (more+smaller airports) (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984793)

Why not just have tons more airports, but smaller? Like one airport per 10,000 people. Fewer "mega" airports.

Reminds me of Tail Spin. (1)

bdabautcb (1040566) | about 10 months ago | (#43984851)

That thing looks about as aerodynamic as the Spruce Goose. We'd better find Balloo if we ever want to see her get off the ground! !

Prior art :-) (1)

Big Nemo '60 (749108) | about 10 months ago | (#43984967)

If I remember correctly, there was something like that in one of the classic Tom Swift novels - maybe "Tom Swift and His Sky Train; or, Overland Through the Clouds" (1931). It was actually better - Swift's airship would drop from the sky and grab his train car from the rails while running...

Anyone who got the book can confirm?

My dream solution (2)

goldcd (587052) | about 10 months ago | (#43985053)

is that airline ninjas just sneak into your bedroom and anaesthetize you as you sleep. I can then be loaded into a person sized shipping container and be unpacked at the other end - I was always fascinated by those gigantic UPS sorting offices and hate every single f'in aspect of flying.

why not just stay on the train? (4, Insightful)

Jerry Atrick (2461566) | about 10 months ago | (#43985069)

We already have these things called trains in Europe. A lot of them on a lot of lines, some very, very fast. Last time I checked I could get to almost anywhere interesting in the EU with 2-4 changes (starting in the UK outside London soaks up 2 of them), often faster than the plane. Not sure what problem this solves this side of the pond.

And who wants to be trapped in an aircraft seat for that length of time? Trains are a lot more comfortable, don't trap you in a cramped seat for the duration and those stops at stations can be fun. Especially continental stations with a decent bar, some of the trains also have decent bars ;)

Re:why not just stay on the train? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#43985327)

Last time I checked I could get to almost anywhere interesting in the EU with 2-4 changes (starting in the UK outside London soaks up 2 of them), often faster than the plane.

And you'd be somewhat wrong: For example, Cork, Ireland to Heraklion, Greece. Unless you don't count those as "anywhere interesting". The European rail system is pretty awesome, but there are some limitations, and bodies of water are high on that list.

Re:why not just stay on the train? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985649)

You can't even get directly to Athens from outside of the country by train since 2011 due to funding cuts. You can get to Crete from Athens easily enough by ferry, the underground station in Athens takes you right to the port. Takes a nine hour ferry trip, the but you also have way more room than on a train.

Re:why not just stay on the train? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43986439)

Cork, Ireland to Heraklion, Greece.

now there is a well travelled route...

you want high speed rail to the island of crete? funded by who? greece? mohahahahahaha. that's funny dude.

Re:why not just stay on the train? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 10 months ago | (#43986683)

I'm just pointing out that GGP's view of what's in the EU doesn't include the farther-flung areas of it.

Re:why not just stay on the train? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985569)

but they're way more expensive than the €20 I pay to get to Barcelona. Or London. Or Vienna. Or Rome. Or Copenhagen. Or BFE. Trains won't work for a lot of long distance travel until they become economically competitive. Which means raise airline ticket prices, or lower rail prices.

Re:why not just stay on the train? (2)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 10 months ago | (#43987113)

Except that the train is often slower and more expensive than the 'plane.
(I travel a lot, and live in the land of the TGV - try travelling by train anywhere in France NOT via Paris; expensive and slow)

queues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985811)

note to self: queue = line

haven't seen the word "queue" in a long time. last time i heard when i was reading about database design or something similar. guess the place where i live doesn't use the word queue like in other parts of the world.

Re:queues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985843)

oh yeah, i just found out that École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne = Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne

Re:queues? (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 10 months ago | (#43986289)

You must be an American like me, I think we call them lines.

I watch enough British tv that I know what a queue is and I know what queuing is as well.

A cross between... (1)

alfredo (18243) | about 10 months ago | (#43986141)

The flying boxcar and the flying crane. It would be a twin boom aircraft with a central body like the flying crane, but shorter and without the prop. The roof of the rail car would be shaped like the flash shoe on a camera. You just wheel the rail car under the plane and "clip" it in place. Fore/aft balance would be the tough issue, especially when "dead heading." http://www2.needham.k12.ma.us/nhs/cur/wwii/09/cmw/images/C119FlyingBoxcar.jpg [k12.ma.us] http://www.minihelicopter.net/CH54Tarhe/CH-54%20Tarhe.jpg [minihelicopter.net]

Learned Nothing (1)

g0bshiTe (596213) | about 10 months ago | (#43986263)

Have we in fact learned nothing from these all in one gadgets we are so enamored with?

Most shout from the rooftops that they can do X number of things, many do but few do X number of things and do them well.

Do you want to travel in a plane that doubles as a train, or do you want to travel by train that doubles as a plane?

I don't know about you but an aircraft has enough moving parts for me already, adding more is just adding something to the mix that could fail.

Dropping people like bombs! (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 10 months ago | (#43986545)

Hey a cool new "feature"! It adds a new dimension to disembarkation.

Re:Dropping people like bombs! (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 10 months ago | (#43987171)

Actually, that's a good idea that used to be used for express trains; the last carriages would be 'slipped' from the back of an Express when they arrived at a midpoint destination.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slip_coach [wikipedia.org]

I can see it now, "no passengers to load in Detroit today? OK, let go pod 3!"
You'd need a damn good gliding or parachute system, tho', and the system already looks overly complex and thus heavy and costly.

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