Turning planes into trucks

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The competition heats up: Airbus has patented a concept for having the cargo/passenger section of an airplane modular and removable.

Instead of a single hull, aeroplanes would essentially be built with a hole in their fuselage between the nose cone and the tail section, into which modular compartments could be fitted and removed. The compartments, which could take on the purpose of a passenger, luxury passenger or freight unit, would be transferred between the aircraft and airport via a docking module, which according to Airbus would (ideally) be integrated into airport terminal buildings.

For passenger planes this idea really doesn’t work. However, for cargo it is brilliant. Like trucks, it allows cargo to be loaded without using the expensive flight infrastructure.


  • hondo

    Seem to recall a few military aircraft and helicopters that utilized this approach back in the 50s-60s. What happened with that?

  • mpthompson

    The concept looks like something from a Gerry Anderson movie or TV show from 50 years ago.

    LOL. I was right. A cross between Thunderbird 2 and the fictional NASA transport linked below:


    Is infrastructure required to fill up a traditional cargo plain really that expensive compared to this? This looks to require a pretty sophisticated large-capacity crane and the safety checks required to make sure everything is secure seem like they would be pretty intense. The cargo carrier is not something you would want to come loose in flight.

    Finally, aircraft fuselages are fairly fragile and get a substantial portion their structural strength from being a rounded, pressurized tube. With this system, both the aircraft and the cargo container would have to be independently structurally sound which would seem to potentially increase weight quite a bit. This alone would seem to be a deal killer.

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