Flying trains could disrupt travel industry

July 12, 2018

Can you imagine taking a train to the airport—which then, fully loaded with passengers, crew, and luggage—rolls out of the terminal onto the tarmac and hooks up under a pair of wings for takeoff? Hours later, upon arrival at its destination, that same plane lands on a runway, shrugs off its wings, turns into a train and rolls on to rails to drop you off at your local station.

This disruptive new technology —a modular airplane with removable wings—is being hawked by a French entrepreneur as the next big thing in travel, according to a July 11 report by Bloomberg. Maurice Ricci, Group CEO of Paris-based Akka Technologies currently is pitching his company’s invention to U.S. aerospace company Boeing, as well as others in the sector.

If it works, the new Link & Fly technology, Akka’s flagship aircraft design, promises to hasten turnover at airports and make boarding easier and closer to passengers’ homes.

“After cars go electric and autonomous, the next big disruption will be in airplanes,” Ricci said in an interview with Bloomberg in Paris.

With Akka’s futuristic concept, passengers would board a train-like tube at a neighborhood station and have their retinas scanned for security during the ride to the airport. Wings would be attached at the airport terminal to the pod for take-off. The company has showcased the idea in a 3D mock-up video called “E-mobility redefined,”gathering interest from potential customers in Asia, Ricci said, without naming any company.

Similar to Airbus’ A320 jet in size and target usage, the Akka Link & Fly carriage for short-range flights carries 162 passengers and the seats can be taken out to move freight instead. With the wings clipped on, and the engines fixed on top, the design has wingspan of about 49 meters (160 feet), is 34 meters long (112 feet) and 8 meters high (26 feet).

While Akka’s not banking on convincing a plane maker to necessarily build the entire  Link & Fly concept, the company is betting on the design to be an attention-grabber and a showcase, parts of which are likely to end up in customers’ commercial aircrafts down the line.

Akka, which has a market value of 1.1 billion euros (US$1.3 billion), employs engineers that customers can hire on a project basis as consultants. The company developed an autonomous car concept in 2008; and in 2014 partnered with Dassault Systemes to offer services to carmakers.

“Planes need to become more efficient, less polluting and less noisy,” said Ricci. “Our role is to point our customers to technologies of the future.”

Several U.S. air hubs—among them, Denver, Atlanta, Newark, and New York City—already use a train-to-plane infrastructure that could be converted to the new Link & Fly platform.

Research contact: @Akka_Technologies

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