There’s a newly proposed concept for an airplane that holds 5,000 people, is nuclear-powered, and never needs to land. It’s flooding social media, news sites, and is utterly ridiculous.
A video was released on Youtube (see link below) of an absolutely ridiculous airplane. Boasted, among its many enviable features, the SkyHotel (such a clever name) is more of a cruise ship in the sky than a hotel. The design postulates that it would hold 5,000 passengers, feature a gym, observation tower, restaurants, bedrooms – anything 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 would wander to these types of designs. One, in particular, my mother retained for a very long time, the Super Plane (an equally clever title though in my defense, I was about seven years old at the time.)
There is nearly no aspect of the plane that accounts for aerodynamics. For example, the Observation tower, a glass-encased ring at the tail would not likely fly. It highlights exterior glass elevators – that would be fun at 300-500 knots and not utterly terrifying, right? There seems to be no general understanding of the amount of thrust required (just make row after row turbine jet engines, that should do the trick), nor the number of wheels needed to absorb the weight of such a crazy contraption upon landing.
The creator of the video didn’t even retract the gear at cruise – that should make for a smooth ride.
It would be a nuclear-powered aircraft to get over the pesky issue of fuel and refueling. No problem.
Who Would Ever Want This?
It should be clear that this is not an aircraft any manufacturer is even casually considering. Without addressing the ideal whimsy (there’s nothing wrong with a little imagination) my wife viewed it and questioned the purpose. The sky isn’t a destination, and while it would be wonderful to dance among the clouds and wake up over a distant continent in a proper bed, even the longest cruises have stops along the way and ultimately reach destinations.
No one, even aviation geeks like me, would want a flight that never lands. Above the clouds, the view would be rather boring for vast swaths of the trip, and of course, there would be turbulence, restocking of food and drink, and the general need and desire to return to daily life.
Even if it were to follow a cruise schedule (10-14 nights), I can’t find the advantage.
The One Worthwhile Thought
There is one worthwhile thought to come from this absurd design. We have nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, why couldn’t we use nuclear energy for the propulsion of a large aircraft (or spacecraft?) The concern about the ability to control a nuclear reactor on a vessel with people aboard has already been answered, so why not airplanes?
If nuclear-powered flight was a possibility, I could see the practical application for long, slow flights to far-flung regions of the world but more as a means to an end. Without the concern of fuel burn and a reduction of carbon emissions, leisure travelers could span longer distances for less money carrying a larger volume of passengers with less time-sensitive concerns.
Space travel, where propulsion is needed for a longer duration over a vast distance would make more sense as a practical application of the technology.
I’ve seen this absurd design pushed at me from a number of sources all week long and it’s become more than an annoyance just because of how little the design is based in fact. That said, a benefit could be some sort of rethinking if there are better or other ways to fly. Faster-than-sound flight was the last true challenge to the basic model of commercial flight that’s been with us since the 1960s. Maybe this ridiculous design will lead to someone creating something truly inspiring, but if so, perhaps they will consider the real-world issues such as aerodynamics or a retractable landing gear.
What do you think? Have you seen this ridiculous model passed around this week? What do you think about nuclear flight?