The ‘airborne metro‘ concept restructures airports and airline systems so that hundreds of ordinary passenger aircraft become simple feeder lines to a series of massive, permanently-aloft air cruisers that loop through the skies above major airport hubs.
Carrying up to 3000 passengers each, these cruisers utilize low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) technology as they travel on efficient looping paths through the sky.
Passenger airplanes take off from conventional airports, flying to and landing on one of a number of these cruisers circling the stratosphere, from which, as they approach their destination, the planes detach to descend and land normally.
This vast concept envisages an era when climate changing emissions, ground congestion and noise pollution will no longer be acceptable at their presently forecast levels. It seeks to sustain the apparently unlimited demands of people for travel without the huge penalties that these are beginning to impose.
The concept depends upon the feasibility of very large flight vehicles, perhaps carrying over 3000 passengers and for these eventually to be nuclear powered. These large “Air Cruisers” would stay aloft on a semi-permanent basis receiving their loads of passengers, freight and supplies in mid-air.
The concept does not require every airport or airline to be compatible with the cruiser concept but most of the large hubs would need to be capable of working in this way.
Starting from the top level of the concept we could have the Airborne Metro system populated entirely by these long-range cruisers. They would travel on predictable, efficient looping paths that take each individual cruiser near to several major population hubs. Their flight paths would also be arranged to intersect with those of other cruisers so that links could be made to anywhere on the global cruiser network by changing from one cruiser to another.
Cruiser tracks would be followed by a considerable number of similar cruisers each following the other at intervals of perhaps an hour. They would be controlled from the ground and have defined track and altitude instructions together with emergency diversion paths. The North Atlantic route might have 20 or 30 cruisers in its looping path from Europe over New York, Washington and Chicago to Los Angeles and back. Reverse tracks would also be flown to provide more convenience for passenger routing.
At the level of the air-cruiser the system has many attributes of a metro system. It works to fixed routes, it has interchange locations and passengers can usually choose between several routes for the most popular journeys.
Interchanges present specific challenges requiring two cruisers to fly with precision and to dock together whilst airborne for the exchange of passengers.
Feeding the cruisers with passengers and freight would require a fleet of locally based aircraft probably of a standard specification and carry 100-200 passengers. These aircraft would be equipped with docking facilities allowing them to link with the cruisers. The internal arrangements of the aircraft would also reflect this special to role design. For example the loading of personal baggage might need to be streamlined to allow hold bags to be pax-loaded into a designated cargo pod for transfer to the correct cruiser flight.
These feeder aircraft could take off from conventional airports, with or without ground power assist schemes1, and would then fly an intersect course to permit docking with the cruiser and the transfer of passengers. The height, location and duration of these manoeuvres would need to be optimised to give the least impact on journey times and greatest economy. Preliminary calculations suggest that a round trip feeder link from ground base to ground base might last about two hours. This would imply that the passenger takes about one hour from the departure lounge at ground base to being installed in the cruiser. Feeder aircraft would fly relatively fixed routes and be to a “frills-free” concept of mass transportation since the average occupancy time would be something under an hour.
Airport congestion could be materially reduced by such a concept. Airports would have very many fewer VLCT movements and would, instead, be focussed on the rapid throughput of passengers onto and from feeder airlines. This would allow the airport to be re-designed to permit, for example, 4 runway operation and materially reduce airport holding populations. Passengers would have to take responsibility for part of this transaction and ensure that they boarded the correct feeder for their destination. Booking “hard” tickets for a particular flight might be phased out in favour of a controlled board-when-you-come approach. Improvements in the power and reach of computer processes by the time of introduction would no doubt allow this to be adequately controlled with least passenger inconvenience and waiting. This would to a major extent compensate for the additional travel time induced by the feeder/cruiser link. Passengers arriving at the airport would be able to register for a seat in the next cruiser available and thereby spend less time at the airport.