There’s a newly proposed concept for an airplane that seats 5,000 people, is nuclear-powered, and never needs to land. It’s flooding social media, news sites, and is absolutely ridiculous.
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A video of an absolutely ridiculous plane was posted on Youtube (see link below). Vaunted, among its many enviable qualities, the Sky Hotel (such a clever name) is more of a cruise ship in the sky than a hotel. The design posits that it would seat 5,000 passengers, would have a gym, observation tower, restaurants, bedrooms – everything a cruise ship would have.
Just watch the video if you haven’t already seen this atrocity.
When I was a very young aviation geek, my imagination wandered to these types of designs. My mother kept one thing in particular for a long time, that super plane (An equally clever title, although in my defense I was about seven years old.)
There is almost no aspect of the aircraft that is responsible for aerodynamics. For example, the observation tower, a glass-encased ring at the stern, probably wouldn’t fly. It highlights glass exterior elevators – that would be fun at 300-500 knots and not absolutely terrifying, right? There doesn’t seem to be a general understanding of the thrust required (just build row by row of turbojets, that should do the trick), nor the number of wheels needed to absorb the weight of such a crazy contraption on landing.
The creator of the video didn’t even retract the landing gear while cruising – that should make for a smooth ride.
It would be a nuclear-powered plane to overcome the pesky issue of fuel and refueling. No problem.
Who would ever want that?
It should be clear that this is not an aircraft that any manufacturer is even casually considering. Without addressing the ideal whimsy (nothing goes wrong with a little imagination), my wife looked at it and questioned the purpose. The sky is no destination, and while it would be wonderful to dance among the clouds and wake up in a real bed over a distant continent, even the longest cruises have stops along the way and eventually reach the destination.
Nobody, not even aviation geeks like me, would want a flight that never lands. Above the clouds the view would be fairly dull for much of the journey and of course there would be turbulence, replenishment of food and drink and a general need and desire to get back to everyday life.
Even if it were to follow a cruise schedule (10-14 nights) I can’t find any benefit.
The only worthwhile thought
There is a worthwhile thought that comes from this absurd design. We have nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers, why couldn’t we use nuclear energy to power a large aircraft (or spacecraft)? Concerns about the ability to control a nuclear reactor on a ship with people on board have already been answered, so why not airplanes?
If nuclear-powered flight were a possibility, I could see practical application for long, slow flights to remote regions of the world, but more as a means to an end. Without worrying about fuel consumption and reducing carbon emissions, leisure travelers could travel longer distances for less money and carry more passengers with fewer time-sensitive concerns.
Space travel, where propulsion is needed over longer distances and over long distances, would make more sense as a practical application of the technology.
I’ve seen this absurd design thrown at me from a number of sources all week, and it’s become more than just an annoyance just because the design is fact based. However, rethinking whether there are better or different ways to fly could be an advantage. Supersonic flight was the last real challenge to the basic model of commercial flight that has accompanied us since the 1960s. Maybe this ridiculous design will lead someone to create something really inspiring, but if so, maybe they’ll consider the real world issues like aerodynamics or a retractable landing gear.
What do you think? Have you seen this ridiculous model being passed around this week? What do you think of nuclear flight?