Every story about reverse-engineering flying saucers to
steal learn new technology causes me to wonder why we don’t also reverse-engineer the passenger sections as well. I can’t believe any alien would volunteer, let alone pay, to fly for eons crammed in the middle non-reclining seat in the last row of economy class on a flying saucer. Someone at Airbus must have had the same thought because the company recently applied for a patent on a plane it calls a “flying doughnut” for its circular cabin with a curved seating arrangement and other futuristic innovations.
Conventional cylindrical-shaped aircraft must have sealed bottoms to deal with the tremendous air pressure at the front and back which can cause structural problems. The doughnut shape joins the ends of the cylinder into a circle that drastically reduces the pressure, which then reduces or eliminates the need for the plane to have a sealed bottom.
The doughnut interior allows designers to use the flying wing exterior for the plane, which aviation engineers have long believed is the most efficient shape for an aircraft. The doughnut shape also necessitates boarding the plane from below up into the middle of the hole.
The patent application describes some neat innovations for individual passengers, starting with the circular seating which allows for more space even with more seats. To compensate for a lack of window seats, Airbus introduced a virtual reality isolation helmet with a built-in video screen, a mini-airbag for turbulence protection and noise elimination – goodbye screaming babies and annoying cellphone talkers. There’s also a design for bicycle-style seats attached to benches that looks like something for the extreme economy class.
When will we be circling the globe in flying doughnuts? No dates have been mentioned and Airbus points out that its engineers come up with 6,000 new ideas per year and very few see it through to implementation.
I’ll bet those engineers at Area 51 kept the technology for themselves and made some really cool office chairs.