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See Airbus’s radical new plane concept, a luxe riff on the Stealth Bomber

It’s time we rethink aircraft design. And Airbus is bringing back an age-old idea in flight to do just that.

It looks like a giant kite. Or perhaps a Playskool toy rendition of the vicious B-2 Stealth Bomber. But Maveric, a new concept developed by Airbus, promises a posh experience for commuters in the sky, all while consuming 20% less fuel than traditional airplanes. The catch? As of today, it’s only been built out to be the size of a small radio-controlled plane. The proof of concept first took flight last year.

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[Photo: ©Airbus 2019/S.Ramadier]

Even still, Maveric is an exciting approach to flying. It utilizes a blended-wing approach, which essentially turns the entire plane body into one giant wing, allowing it to more easily generate lift while still slicing through the sky at super-fast speeds. Blended-wing aircraft have actually flown successfully since the 1940s, though the most famous implementation for the design was the aforementioned B-2 bomber. Where we haven’t seen the design creep up yet is in commercial aircraft, and frankly, that’s where it might make the most sense.

[Image: courtesy Airbus]

Aside from fuel savings, a blended-wing aircraft allows both people and cargo to fit inside a much larger footprint, filling the V-shaped structure instead of a skinny tube. While there are few available specs about the Maveric (and Airbus did not respond to our request for interview), we can make a lot of guesses by looking at another blended-wing commercial aircraft concept, proposed by NASA and Boeing. Their craft would have a wingspan wider than a 747, but weigh less, generate less noise, seat more people, and still squeeze into existing airport terminals. It’s safe to assume that the Maveric would be similar.

What Airbus did share, however, were luxe images of the Maveric’s inner cabin. It doesn’t look so much like the skinny-rowed commuter planes we know so much as a conference room in the sky. The footprint appears even wider than the Airbus 380, the world’s largest passenger plane that ceased production last year, though it’s worth noting that the 380 had seats stacked two stories tall. Sure, people would probably be sardined into the Maveric as they are any other plane these days, but it’s nice to imagine the spaciousness, if only for one impractical moment.

[Image: ©Airbus 2020/Fixion/Dreamsite]

As for the windows you see in these renders, those are the one big trade-off of the blended-wing design, which prevents windows from being installed in the body. They are likely not actual portholes to the outside, but screens that depict a real-time video feed from a camera filming outside the plane. (Again, this same idea was proposed in NASA’s concept plane.)

Perhaps losing a window sounds terrible—windows, after all, are the best part of flying, as far as I’m concerned. However, given how bad our jets are for the environment, something has to give if we’re going to keep traveling. Maybe we get used to flying a bit slower. Or maybe we get used to the faux window seat. Either way, it sure beats walking.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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