Airliners, they transport millions of people millions of kilometres per year, they are truly the transport method of the future. But as much as we love our great modern airliners the 787, A350 and 747 they won’t be here forever and unfortunately, within the next 10 to 20 years they will need to be replaced. So what’s the big next airliner? What’s next?
Back in the space age of the 1960’s air travel was becoming increasingly common and futuristic. Dreams of supersonic jets taking us everywhere we needed to be within half the time of conventional jet engines were seemingly only a decade or so away. To their credit, the dreamers of the '60s did have something to show of their optimism, Concorde. Concorde was set to be the standard of air travel into the future with any trace of older, slower jets set to be gone from international routes by the 1980s. Supersonic travel was set to be the norm. At the end of the '60s however a new slower yet roomier jet was introduced, the Boeing 747 with that the optimism of a supersonic future started to diminish. It was clear that larger, more fuel-efficient airliners were the future. But they weren’t and here’s why
The 747 was and still is one of the best-designed aircraft ever produced but in the 21st century with rising oil prices rising her mystic is fading and airlines are retiring her quickly. Then comes along the 787-9, fuel-efficient, smaller yet seemingly better. Maybe this is the future or maybe not? Her fuel efficiency comes at a cost, small size. Fewer passengers mean less money for the airlines and even with the fuel savings it comes at a cost of hiring more staff for the same amount of passengers then the A380 does. So where does this leave us? The following are my predictions for the new 50 years of airliner design…
Short-haul: More fuel-efficient turboprops until about 2030 when electric planes are introduced. Expect Boeing to enter the market within the next decade. All short-haul aircraft to be electric by 2045
Medium-haul: Boeing’s 797 to revolutionise and knock the now-dated A321 out by 2028. Electric planes by 2037, all medium-haul aircraft to be electric by 2060
Long-haul: More fuel-efficient twins until about 2030, large A380 like fuel-efficient jet to enter service in 2035, electrics introduced by 2050, all long haul aircraft to be electric by 2100
So those are my predictions, tell me yours! Let’s see if I’m wrong in 50 years…
“The Future of aviation”, Americas supersonic jet never got past the planning stages in the '60s image credit