Future

The Airplane Of The Future: Panoramic Cabin Views, Morphing Seats And Room In The Sky For Billions

Airbus engineers are coming up with startling new ideas for how planes could look – and operate – 40 years from now. By 2050, commercial aircraft may have transparent cabins, fly in formations and shuttle some 9 billion passengers.

Airbus's vitalizing zone by night - sit back and enjoy the night sky.
Airbus's vitalizing zone by night - sit back and enjoy the night sky.
Michael Donhauser

Stale dry air, narrow seats, jammed overhead compartments: today's air passenger has to be a real flying nut to think plane travel is any fun. But engineers at European manufacturer Airbus say they're working on ways to improve things. Implementing the changes will probably take up to four decades, but they assure us the result willA be more than worth the wait.

Flying in 2050 is going to be a real pleasure, the manufacturer says, with a 360-degree panoramic view whenever the "intelligent cabin membrane" is set on transparent, and a virtual golf course on board. Realistic projects, or overactive imaginations? "Engineers dream too," says Charles Champion, Airbus head of development. The Frenchman also points out that some of those dreams are already being implemented and may be launched in as little as 10 years from now.

One of the new ideas engineers are currently playing with involves harvesting passenger body heat to meet some of the plane's energy needs. Another idea refers to seats being upholstered with self-cleaning fabrics that adapt to each individual body form.

The first, business and economy class system would be abandoned: "It's not what people want," Champion says. Instead, there would be individual seating arrangements.

Innovations would by no means stop there. In the "vitalizing zone," for example, the air would be vitamin-enriched, while in the "interaction zone," passengers could enjoy virtual games of golf high up over the clouds, or go shopping and try on the latest fashions in virtual changing cabins. Through the cabin's transparent membrane, passengers would be able to gaze at the mountain peaks below them, and would be given information about the name of each summit and its exact height. State of the art communication with the ground would mean that business people could take part in video conferences at 33,000 feet, and that Mom or Dad could read bed time stories to their kids back home.

This cabin of the future—whose shape was modeled after birds—is part of Airbus's total concept for 2050. CEO Thomas Enders says the company expects the demand for aircraft to go up worldwide despite on-going problems faced by many airlines, particularly in Europe.

"Air travel continues to hold more long-term growth potential than virtually any other sector," Enders told the German newspaper "Welt am Sonntag." According to Airbus figures, air travel currently makes up 8%, or 580 billion dollars worth of the European gross domestic product. The sector employs 33 million people worldwide.

Airbus engineer Champion says that the three biggest current challenges are "that people want flying to be cheap, efficient and environmentally friendly." The sector has to find satisfactory answers to those demands, which is why flying will probably look completely different a few decades down the road. "By 2050, the sector will be hauling 9 billion passengers around the world," Champion says.

All that additional traffic will be possible thanks to new safety technologies that will enable companies to increase the number of flights fivefold. And instead of flying solo, planes could fly in formation and dock during flights to save on fuel. Airbus developers are even toying with the idea of huge airborne aircraft carriers that passenger planes could land on and be transported by.

Airbus' visions for airports of the future no longer include gates. Instead, planes would roll right up – subway style – to a station, with passengers boarding quickly through several doors with touch screens for the check in. Luggage would be put on a conveyor and stored in the cabin.

If Champion sees a sticking point, it concerns the airports themselves: "We can come up with all kinds of great stuff, but when a plane has to circle for 40 minutes over Heathrow before landing, a lot of it gets lost."

Read the original article in German.

Photo - Airbus

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ