Musings on planes, volcanoes and the future of transport

Over the past few days, whilst enjoying the sunshine on Hampstead Heath, I have been very aware of the sheer number planes crossing the sky, and their loud intrusive roar.

For five days or so last week, London was blessed with silent skies. A wondrous stillness was apparent from the lack of activity up there, that filled me with joy. Its not until all that noise stops that one realises the impact of it. And its not just the noise, it’s the whole energy of the planes and of air travel as we currently put up with it. The huge airports, the pollution, the extreme busyness up there, and the general sense of the overwhelming need to be somewhere else, fast.

I fly quite a lot, and I am probably not going to stop, although when the planes were all grounded, I realised I would also be fine, to never fly anywhere, ever again. I was loving it, grateful for that volcano in Iceland, which seemed to me a cheeky move by mother earth to give us humans another lesson about how powerless we are in the face of her magnificence. She merely clears her throat and sends clouds of ash into the sky to disrupt our mistaken belief that we are in control.

Anyway, those magical still days came to an end, and the planes took up residence in the skies again as if it is their divine right.

All this got me thinking as to how much we put up with, how much we take for granted as just being the way things are. Let’s face it, aeroplanes are an outdated design. They seem so crude and clunky and polluting, and I don’t want them cluttering up the sky. Like cars, they have hardly changed since they appeared on the planet, just modified. Its now time for a complete rethink and redesign of how we move around. I don’t think we are ready for teleportation yet, we are still too stuck in space-time materiality, although I perceive this to be gradually getting looser, less fixed. I am convinced however that technologies probably already exist that could move us about speedily, silently, cleanly. I envision aircraft that can lift directly up from the ground, so no need for huge concrete runways. These new aircraft would be silent, and almost transparently invisible in the sky, and would not leave jet trails.

The development of such new technologies has been severely handicapped and at times strangled by the oil industry over the years. And funding to realise radically new projects is hard to find. But the oil era is coming to an end, and its time for some fresh ideas…….. let’s all envision this together and not just settle for less…… if a fraction of the money spent on military research was put into this we could soon be living in the era of silent clean fast transport.

I did a quick google search and found that there is some research in this area…… check these out for some inspiration…..

This project for silent aircraft is really just upgrade of present aircraft technology. It made a buzz in 2006, and I can’t find any progress on it since then…..

Solar planes are an area of development, but so far can only carry one or two passengers

Here is a list of other ideas out there, some of which are quite “out there”……

The most likely of these new technologies to come into usage any time soon are probably in hypersonic flight – these aircraft will fly so high that they would not be visible or audible except on take off and landing. The flight time from europe to australia would be around 4 hours, for the same cost as a current business class ticket. Not sure how fuel-efficient it is though? Most likely quite a gas-guzzler.

Visionary Jacque Fresco has some ideas for future transportation on his Venus Project site…

The maglev train is the future of ground transportation and could possibly also travel across oceans through large tubes on the seabed. Check out the Vactrain, which could travel from New York to London in an hour!

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