The giant, double-decker plane can seat between 500 and 850 people, depending on how much space is given to space-saving economy class, and how much goes to higher-paying passengers with all that extra leg room. It’s an aviation giant, the biggest passenger-carrying aircraft ever to fly the skies.
But the A380 could be become small fry if another, even more outsized design takes to the skies.
The AWWA Sky Whale is a concept aircraft from Spanish designer Oscar Vinals. With three decks for passengers, it looks like a cross between a tropical fish and a sci-fi space shuttle. Does this huge design herald the future of air travel?
Bigger means better in the world of airliners; the dawn of the jet age brought in the likes of the Boeing 707, an aircraft capable of carrying more passengers quicker and faster than any propeller-driven design. In the ensuing decades, airliners have grown larger and larger. The advent of “jumbo” designs, characterised by Boeing’s 747, meant more passengers per flight, and therefore cheaper seats.
The plane would have swivelling engines for shorter take offs
“Travelling in the Sky Whale could be like a travelling in your private ‘theatre seat’, enjoying what happens around you; hearing some air flow noise, but feeling safe inside a big and intelligent structure,” Vinals says.
The design would use advanced technologies such as self-repairing wings, swiveling engines to enable a near vertical take-off, and hybrid propulsion.
“The engines and batteries are fed by a turbine inside the wings, like a high-speed and powerful dynamo,” says Vinals.
The design also calls for a system to redirect air flow to intake engines and to control laminar flow – in other words, to reduce turbulence around the plane and reduce drag.
None of these technologies are feasible on a large scale at the moment, but all are possible, says Vinals.
“I did this because I am an aerospace and aviation enthusiast – the technology, development and evolution,” he explains. “I would like to contribute, with my vision, about these.”
Perhaps that vision from someone outside the aerospace industry, without preconceptions, is what is needed to revolutionise plane design. Vinals told me he did “years” and “terabytes” of research. It’s an approach that some in the field appreciate.