the future of flight
With a bad economy, the airline industry always teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and gas prices threatening to rise to astronomical levels, flying looks like a risky business to get into. Add the fact that flying can be less than enjoyable at times (ok, most of the time), and we can all agree that there is a lot of room for improvement in commercial flying.
Instapundit posted this article from Wired about Finnair's vision for the future of flight. While there are some interesting concepts, I think some of the them are definitely flights of fancy.
Should everyone have their own aircraft?
In the last three years of being an instructor pilot in the Air Force, I can say that not everyone is meant to be a pilot. We have enough trouble teaching students that already have experience flying. Think of all the bad drivers you know and then give them a third dimension in which to control their vehicle, while they are required to talk on a radio and look inside at some sort of control panel to monitor airspeed, direction, maybe a GPS. In 2008 there were 147 aircraft accidents and 876 deaths. Can you imagine what that number would be if that jerk who just cut you off while talking on his cell phone was allowed to fly? While the dream of every one having a "family jet" a la the Jetsons is great, it is totally unrealistic and, I would argue, very unsafe.
Will flights be more enjoyable?
Finnair envisions flying cruise ships where "personal flight attendants, pre-flight yoga lounges, sleeping pods and meals featuring something called 'eco-food'" are available. They even describe aircraft that are practically flying cities, complete with beauty parlors and a gym. Now don't get me wrong, this sounds great, but this isn't that much different than what's available to the ultra rich these days anyway. And how many flights are long enough to allow people to enjoy these perks if they are available? International flights definitely, but if air travel gets faster, as it inevitably will, most flights will take less time anyway. While I do often wish I could get up and take a walk about half way into a two hour flight, I don't think going for a run is really in the cards. Air travel isn't about the journey, its about the destination.
So call me a skeptic, but I'll believe this stuff when it when I see it. Air travel will just suck less in 2093.