What is the airliner of the future?

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

12 Likes

hmmm… what about the hydrogen plane concept? Good read and probably realistc predictions

2 Likes

I think there’s going to be a plane smaller than a B787-8 that would be able to make long haul journeys. The hub and spoke model of airlines is dying, and if there is anything to show, the point to point model is growing faster than ever. If airlines want something, its to have point to point long haul flights in small planes to lower cost and provide customers with direct services.

2 Likes

And that plane would be the 757/767 replacement

2 Likes

Good point, what about heavy demand routes like JFK-LHR?

2 Likes

Ha! I knew someone would say something like this, but what I was referring to was a plane with a range far beyond its size. People would be looking at a plane with say a range of 4000nm in the 757-767 successor, but dare I say it, this new small plane would have a 6000nm+ range that would help serve transoceanic niche routes.

2 Likes

I think the biggest plane would be a plane with about the capacity of the A350-1000, 777-300 or the earliest 747s

2 Likes

We have planes like the B777-9 which would still have many more years to run its course. That plane would be the intended successor of the B747 and A380 which would have high capacity.

1 Like

Ultra long hauls with a A318 size aircraft would be pretty fun to be honest!

2 Likes

Me with my 10,000nm Cessna 172

1 Like

In the current economic climate bigger is not necessarily better, neither are more powerful planes. What people are looking for includes fuel efficient planes, irregardless of range (although this would play a fairly major role).

2 Likes

In 2070 people will look at this IFC post and see if you were correct or not. Nice topic!

5 Likes

I say the main aircraft of the future will be the A350-900, A350-1000, I would also say the 787 variants and the 777-300ER and 777X. Narrow body wise I would say the A320NEO, A321NEO, 737 MAX, and the 737-800 which is still pretty new and efficient.

1 Like

TBH I expect Boeing to come out with a 757 with a new engine option. The likely hood of this happening is slim but it would be awesome!

1 Like

The logistics would be an inferno, the 757 production was stopped in 2004. That was the worst decision Boeing ever made

1 Like

No the 737 MAX situation is their worst decision. It cost lives and money.

The A321XLR, along with the A330neo and A350, are the future of aviation.

777X Also?

I’m not too keen on electric or hydrogen planes at all. I think that, dare I say it, Supersonic planes are the future. The Concorde was a huge leap in technology, and that was more than 50 years ago. Imagine what we can do with the technology of today, or even in 10 years, let alone 50. I don’t see manufacturers and airlines turning to turboprops anytime in the next 50 years — that’s evolving, just backwards. I can’t see electric aircraft taking over the market anytime soon.

When people said propeller aircraft would dominate the skies forever, jets came along. Almost every time when someone said something revolutionary would happen, it either didn’t happen, or happened way later than estimated. Why should we be expecting electrical aircraft? And I’m sure back in the 60’s and 70’s people thought the same way about supersonic travel.

That brings me back to my original point. I think Supersonic aircraft are the future — not electric aircraft. They can still be efficient, but also much faster than normal electric aircraft.


Either way, I’m going to be the guy that’s flying the 1970’s Beechcraft when everyone else is flying their fancy new planes. 😜

3 Likes

The sonic boom will be a very very big issue to solve. The problem is that this can be heard for many many many, possibly hundreds of miles away where the plane almost has no business of being near. Flying transcontinental supersonic is a big ask if there is no way to mitigate this issue as of yet. Hopefully the future brings something more interesting, but for now, this is one of the biggest reasons why supersonic flights over land is not feasible.

3 Likes