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Transportation Technology

Airbus Planning Transparent Planes 488

goG writes "European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has come up with the idea to build a passenger flight with a completely transparent fuselage. The central body of the aircraft will allow passengers to the see the stars above and city lights below. 'The planes of the future will offer an unparalleled, unobstructed view of the wonders of the five continents — where you will be able see the pyramids or the Eiffel Tower through the transparent floor of the aircraft,' Airbus said while unveiling the concept 'The Future By Airbus' earlier this year."
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Airbus Planning Transparent Planes

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:26PM (#33642616)
    I dunno about anyone else, but knowing there is something non-transparent and solid around me is about the only thing that makes flying semi-sane for me. ;)
    • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:37PM (#33642792) Journal

      I'm with you, man. I'm not afraid of heights, but the idea of experiencing a steep banking turn with a transparent fuselage makes fairly nauseous.

      • I doubt very much I would like to see through the hull during storms or particularly dicey landings.

      • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:44PM (#33643490) Journal

        the idea of experiencing a steep banking turn with a transparent fuselage makes fairly nauseous.

        Don't worry it sounds like it's a self correcting problem...

      • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @10:31PM (#33644828) Homepage Journal

        Everyone here seems to be seeing only the increased view a transparent fuselage would provide. There may be another benefit: less weak points. Every time you make a hole in your fuselage, such as for a window, you are increasing the number of potential weak points. Imagine now the whole fuselage being one transparent piece, you reduce this problem. Anywhere you don't want people seeing out can simply be painted over.

      • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @11:33PM (#33645292) Journal
        I've flown on old Bell Huey Helicopters with the doors wide open (I guess the helicopters themselves weren't that old at the time). When the pilot makes a hard turn the whole body goes perpendicular to the ground, and if you are say, on the right side of the helicopter when it is making a right turn, you are stuck to the floor by centrifugal force and are staring straight down at the ground with nothing between you and it but air. A little unnerving at first. And if you happen to be carrying a lot of weight, it is best to hold on to the posts or better yet buckle in to a harness. A buddy of mine almost slid out.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by burne ( 686114 )

      You're ignoring issues with the weight of glass or the strength of polycarbonate.

      • You're ignoring issues with the weight of glass or the strength of polycarbonate.

        Because, according to TFA, these new planes will be made of a transparent ceramic. Obviously the Airbus designers are high on something more prosaic. Otherwise they would have realized that the obvious next step is transparent aluminum.

    • by Shadow99_1 ( 86250 ) <theshadow99NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:53PM (#33642996)

      I have a fear of falling (and the more likely to my brain falling is the more the fear kicks in), glass or transparent anything that I'd stand, sit, or other hope to hell is going to support me would give me a full blown panic attack...

      Btw lots of people tell me it's just a fear of heights, except I'm fine on high things that seem solid and unlikely to fall... A cabin on the top of a 'mountain', won't bother me. A thin metal bar on the edge of a bridge 200 feet overlooking the ground (or water) makes me nervous. The transparent flooring on the upper level of a skyscrapper I once visited was another to have me curled up on the floor...

      • by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:13PM (#33643210)
        Ah, you don't have a fear of heights, you have a fear of depths.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Join the club. I'm fine with flying, but I freak out at steep drops that I'm "connected" to. My daughters thought it was hilarious when I lost it at the Grand Canyon, and I was nervous all throughout dinner when we ate at the top of the Stratosphere (not my choice).

        Given that I almost panicked on the Palm Springs aerial tramway, I suspect that I'd go into full-blown panic mode on a plane that did that.

        Airbus may be able to make a plane like this. I doubt that they'll sell many to commercial airlines, du

        • by berzerke ( 319205 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:36PM (#33644010) Homepage

          Airbus may be able to make a plane like this. I doubt that they'll sell many to commercial airlines, due to liability concerns over people with acrophobia. There may be a niche market for sightseeing etc...

          I don't know. It might be great for in-flight sales of alcohol and valium like drugs.

      • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:30PM (#33643942)

        I have a fear of falling (and the more likely to my brain falling is the more the fear kicks in), glass or transparent anything that I'd stand, sit, or other hope to hell is going to support me would give me a full blown panic attack...

        Truth be told, it scares us too. The main reason we're developing these airplanes is for the youtube videos of people falling asleep on the planes, waking up, looking at the floor, and freaking out.


      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DigiShaman ( 671371 )

        This year, purchased a ticket at the Shanghai World Financial Center for a ride to the top. The top floor is that bridge area. Part of the floor has transparent (thick) tiles about two feet wide running lengthwise in the center.

        I'll never forget when I first stepped on one. I scooted to the side ASAP! For a moment, I had visions of it cracking and me falling right through. After ten minutes or so, I sheepishly started walking on it like any normal tile. Reason being, I wanted to take some nice photos.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by alanshot ( 541117 )

        Not necessarily.

        your brain works in mysterious ways.

        There is an interesting phenomenon that I dont recall the name for. basically the reason you freak in a skyscraper but not in a plane is the fact that there is nothing in your view to "connect" you to the ground.

        when you are in a skyscraper, your brain sees the line of the building to the ground, makes the connection and says "F***! I'm high up!".

        In an aircraft, there isn nothing for your brain to connect the plane to the ground, so you are less prone to t

    • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @09:27PM (#33644424) Journal

      Don't worry. Last time I checked luggage and cargo was not transparent, planes required wiring etc. etc. This is just ill thought out marketing BS.

    • by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @12:00AM (#33645442) Homepage

      In a joint statement, the chief executives of British Rail, Société Nationale des Chemins de Français, Deutsche Bahn, Österreichische Bundesbahnen, Ferrovie dello Stato, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Schweizerische Bundesbahnen, Renfe Operadora, Norges Statsbaner, and several other European rail companies applauded the idea, saying it would help to increase competition in the market for European travel.

  • I for one (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KillaGouge ( 973562 ) <gougec17&msn,com> on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:26PM (#33642618)
    I would really love to fly on an aircraft that was designed like this. I enjoy flying and would really love to see everything bellow. The only problem is the baggage compartment, and the routing of the wire, hoses, and conduit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Speare ( 84249 )

      A thousand other replies followed yours, with every variation of Wonder Woman, transparent cargo, wiring and bathrooms. Congrats on being fastest, or first to get an Insightful mod.

      Personally, I think that temperature regulation and solar dazzle will be a lot harder problem. Already, flying north or south near sunset can have a noticeable impact on cabin temperatures, and everyone slides the blinds closed on the sunward side. What if you don't have those options? You're going to be the ant in the jar, l

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rhook ( 943951 )

        And you all missed this part FTFA.

        "walls that become see-through at the touch of a button"

        Sounds a lot like those windows you can make transparent or tinted at the push of a button.

    • The US already has a transparent UAV [wikimedia.org] in development.

    • The vomit colored and sticky floor soon after take off is going to be a bit of a problem too.

    • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:08PM (#33643170)

      ...we can posit imaginary transparent stuff for the wire, hoses, and conduit as well. We can even imagine that we can tailor its refractive index so that it truly appears "invisible", not just "clear".

      • by EdZ ( 755139 )
        Or just stick a handful of cameras outside, and give passengers who want to look around an HMD.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Welcome on board Budget Air's glass glider. As is always the case on Budget Air, bathroom use is completely complimentary. Curtains may be purchased from any flight attendant.

  • I wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mogster ( 459037 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:28PM (#33642632)

    Is it perchance piloted by Amazonian princesses? If so I'm in

  • meh... Wonder Woman has had a transparent plane for nearly 70 years...
  • Commence Star Trek references in 3... 2... 1...

  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:29PM (#33642658) Homepage Journal

    How can you make all of the airplane transparent? It's probably not possible with most of it at all, given how many wires, pipes, tubes, insulation, bolts and nuts there are there.

    I would love to fly a fully transparent plane though, completely transparent, that would be super awesome!

    Except that there would be other passengers there to spoil the view, and fuel. That would be weird.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gmhowell ( 26755 )

      Yeah, there might be other passengers, but at least everyone else could enjoy it when a couple joins the mile high club.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by roman_mir ( 125474 )

        Given the size of an average American, do you really want to see any of that?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gmhowell ( 26755 )

          I may not want to see it, but Rule 34 would imply that someone does.

          Besides, there are international flights.

    • by siddesu ( 698447 )

      And more importantly, not how, but why?

      I am sure some people would love it on landing and takeoff, but I see a lot of inconvenience.

      I hate heights, and I like to be able to nap in the dark on some of those long daytime flights, which arrive in the morning.

      Nah, this will be a prototype, the real thing will only have an observation deck :)

  • And the baggage in the luggage compartment won't affect the view? Really?
  • I hope... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Muckluck ( 759718 )
    the bathrooms are not transparent. Or maybe I don't...
  • Oh look 30,000 feet of nothingness below me under this transparent floor.

  • Any flight over the Atlantic will be a nice view of the ocean for 7 or so hours.

    If you can see around the luggage. How about just making it cheaper and more comfortable. I honestly would take a flight that took 30% longer if it was just more comfortable.

    • Cheaper?! Air fares haven't gone up since the 80s...(yet the price of fuel has, exponentially...)

      And if you want comfortable, go fly on Singapore or Emirates.

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Sadly they do not service the routes I use most often. You are right though that avoiding US airlines is the way to go.

        By cheaper I mean, using modern technology and perhaps flying slower we should be able to use less fuel and perhaps lower costs. I realize the prices have not risen since then, but pretty much everything else has gotten cheaper.

  • by CosmeticLobotamy ( 155360 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:36PM (#33642766)

    Transparent ceramic planes using super-expensive future technology that will take years and years to actually make work! It'll be awesome! You'll be able to see through the plane! Except for the fuel, seats, luggage compartments, probably the floor, A/C ducting, electrical conduit, the bulkhead separating you from the pilot, the bathrooms in the back...

    Or I guess we could just make the windows a little bigger.

  • Transparent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pitterpatter ( 1397479 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:36PM (#33642774) Journal

    Clear hydraulic fluid in clear lines; transparent aluminum [slashdot.org] wiring in nylon insulation. What a concept!

  • Yeah, somehow I don't think having the ability to look down and see your feet dangling over the earth from 50,000 feet up will make people enjoy flying more....

  • Given current airline trends - if we're all crammed together only a few inches apart, will we actually be able to see anything except the stars above? We'll be lucky to see anything but other peoples' feet.

  • I'll take planes that don't kill everyone when they have issues over pretty and nicer cabins. If you download their presentation it's quite funny: "The engines of the future will have no risk of failure, so can be placed at the rear and remove the need for a vertical tail." What could go wrong?
  • Now we can scare the bejeezus out of people who are suffering from both Aviatophobia (fear of flying), AND Acrophobia (fear of heights). Give the passengers some double strength espresso and now you've got a show! Woo-ga!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      On the other hand, I guess claustrophobics will like it.

    • by reemul ( 1554 )

      You missed the extra special terror for the agoraphobics who are already panicky about traveling in the first place: they're not so limited as the acrophobics, they freak out over all three dimensions.

  • Wouldn't it be cheaper to just put a strategically placed webcam or two and pipe it to the tv built into the seat back?
    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Even better, do something like google sky on android phones. As you move the screen it shows you what is outside the plane so you can just see what you want.

  • Probability zero (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    H. Sapiens has a built in fear of heights. Take a six month old kid and try to get him to crawl over a pane of glass suspended at a meter's altitude - no go. It's been tested, after reaching a certain age he won't do it. He has figured out the dangers of the Z coordinate.

    Now stuff a hundred people on a plane and repeat the experiment. You'll have people screaming in terror as they fight to reach the exits. However much you rationalize it, fear of heights is built in into the average H. Sapiens brain.

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:42PM (#33642852)

    Oh come on, no way is this going to happen or work. It's not like the plane only holds the passenger compartment, and I can't see going to the effort to give the passengers a good view of the luggage, extra cargo, and distressed pets, which will all block the view, as well as letting the passengers see the condition of the wiring, landing gear and other controls. And even if the airlines really wanted to do this and found a way for all of the extra stuff to not block the view, the thickness of the curved hull would so drastically distort the view that it would not be worth doing.

    It would be far simpler with today's technology to give everyone individual steerable, zoomable access to video cameras. I don't expect that to happen, and I don't believe that Airbus will ever build Wonder Woman's plane, the passenger version.

    • by trb ( 8509 )

      It would be far simpler with today's technology to give everyone individual steerable, zoomable access to video cameras. I don't expect that to happen, and I don't believe that Airbus will ever build Wonder Woman's plane, the passenger version.

      Planes already have under-body forward-view video cameras that you can see on your personal seatback display. I had one on a flight from NYC to Hong Kong (over the north pole), and I got to look at solid white clouds for 15 hours, except for takeoff and landing - he

  • Luckily the barf bags will still be an non-transparent white.
  • On a couple of flights, I've tried to catch a glimpse of the stars through the window--far above city lights, with less atmosphere to look through, I'd think it'd be a pretty good view. The placement of the window makes it very difficult to look "up", however--not to mention the blinking light on the wing and all the interior lights preventing any sort of dark adaptation.

    A plane with a transparent fuselage should solve two of these problems by permitting a line of sight that doesn't require craning your ne

  • nothing like looking down on takeoff, folks, to make you wonder what you're up to.

    except maybe seeing the runway lights coming at ya from 50 feet.

    or watching a tire disintegrate on the landing gear.

    "for your pleasure, we offer earphones for $5, soft drinks for $2, pillows for $4, and clock-stopping horse-pill tranquilizers for $25. please don't mob the stewards as they make their way down the mffff THUMP THUMP GIMME THAT!"

  • Or are we all going to keep on pretending that this is 1960, and that the average American man is still about 5'7 and weighs around 150 lbs?
    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      As a man who is about those dimensions I can tell you that airline seats are not comfortable for me either.

  • if this becomes common.

  • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @06:56PM (#33643038) Journal

    I remember the concepts for the 747... Piano lounge upstairs with a bar. Private cabins. Luxurious accomodations.

    Didn't take long for the 747 to become a large cattle car. Any bets on how long the luxury will last?

  • To me this sounds awesome, a super wonder-womanish invisible plane streaking through the sky where you can watch the world below and the sky above.

    For those already nervous about air travel, it sounds like a recipe for a Grade A Freakout. So if they do extend the small portal you can look through currently, then I hope they provide some way to block it off too...

    Not to mention, if you've even been inside of a plane on a hot day with the sun coming in - even the small windows they have add a huge amount of

  • by DigitalCrackPipe ( 626884 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @07:05PM (#33643140)
    I figured out what step 2 is!

    Sell underpants to passengers who freak out when they can see the ground 30,000 feet directly below them.
  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:01PM (#33643656)

      Toronto's CN Tower has a glass floor, about a 1/4 mile above street level and there are many, many people who can't muster the nerve to walk out on it.
      I can only imagine how relaxing it'll be for Joe Sixpack to have an unrestricted view of a flock of geese flying into the engine before all goes hurtling to that most
    welcoming of places we call Terra Firma.

    Not to mention just how much more gruesome plane crashes will be since anyone within visual range will have a lovely view of the innards, both the planes and the
    dead or dying passengers.

    Good plan, Mr Airbus Man.

  • by DieByWire ( 744043 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @08:11PM (#33643756)

    Airbus engineers once again prove the old adage about European heaven and hell.

    In European heaven, the British are the police, the French are the cooks, the Germans are the engineers, the Italians are the lovers and the Swiss run the government.

    In European hell, the British are the cooks, the French are the engineers, the Germans are the police, the Italians run the government, and the Swiss are the lovers.

  • by gullevek ( 174152 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @01:26AM (#33645824) Homepage Journal

    What do you want to see at the bottom? Boxes and boxes and more boxes ... and on the top. cables, cables and more cables. See-through-fuselage-my-ass I say.

    I see this more a too early 1st April joke ... Unless they magically add some lights, call buttons, etc and make the floor where the seats are connected and the boxes and the boxes contents (aka luggage) transparent there won't be anything more to see anyway.

  • Glare...? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @06:56AM (#33647194)

    I often have to take sunglasses on board during daytime flights -- the bright sunlight gives me a cracking headache, even with just the small windows. Increasing the light reaching the interior isn't going to make that any better...


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