Inside a huge FLYING HOTEL twice the size of the Boeing 737 capable of carrying 3,000 passengers around the world at 460 mph
Soaring just meters above the sea at speeds comparable to those of airliners, this enormous flying hotel could have carried some 3,000 passengers at speeds of 460 mph.
The Aerocon Wingship could have been a revolutionary way to travel – dwarfing the world’s largest airliners as it was twice the size of a jumbo jet.
With ambitious aircraft to carry thousands of passengers 1,500 tons of cargo, the 400-ton, 566-foot-long machine was a concept funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA).
Engineers predicted the gigantic planes could travel around 12,000 miles, powered by 20 rocket engines attached to the wings near the plane’s nose.
But unlike planes that fly thousands of feet in the air, the Aerocon would hover just above the surface of the water using a concept called ground effect – which creates an air bubble beneath the surface. gear.
It is similar to a hovercraft – but allows vehicles to travel much faster and with much more stability, allowing potentially huge flying ships – much like the Aerocon Wingship.
The aircraft was designed to fly across the Atlantic between America and Europe.
But with its incredible range, it could also fly nonstop from the United States to Japan, Australia, China or almost anywhere in the world.
It had a wingspan of 100 meters – so it was almost as wide as a football field.
And it could carry 30 times the weight of a Boeing 747, carrying ship-level loads at aircraft-level speeds as it soared up to 100 feet above the sea.
It was hoped the plane could be luxurious – carrying dorms, bars and restaurants like a huge flying hotel or cruise ship.
The wing could also sail to the dock and open its rear doors like a ro-ro ferry, potentially allowing passengers to even bring their cars.
The aircraft’s chief designer, Steven Hooker, envisioned the Wingship after witnessing similar vehicles in the Soviet Union, such as the Caspian Sea Monster.
The beast was an experimental ground-effect vehicle and could reach speeds of 311 mph, but only one was built after the Kremlin flew out of love for the plane.
Hooker, however, thought he could do better – and dreamed up his Wingship which was ten times larger than the Sea Monster.
This [tech] would be perfect for the ferry or cruise ship role
He hoped his machine could transport people across the Atlantic from just £60 a ticket when it was launched in the 1990s.
And because of the way the concept of ground effect works, for Hooker it really was the bigger the better.
“To build a big plane, I have to build a huge plane,” he told Popular Mechanics.
“You really have to be motivated to do it, but if you took that step, it would have a commercial effect.”
But the project however had a staggering development cost of up to $600 million.
And the U.S. military considered buying 13 of the planes, bringing the total expense to around $15 billion.
With the DARPA-funded project, the Pentagon was very interested – imagining that it could be a huge rapid-response troop transport.
It was estimated that the vehicle could carry 32 helicopters, 20 tanks, 4 landing craft and some 2,000 troops.
Lt. Col. Michael F. Francis, program manager, told the Los Angeles Time“We’ve never built anything on this scale.”
The Wingship could also be used as a huge flying hospital to transport to disaster areas.
Hooker said: “The stern of the ship opens and the hospital can be turned on or off.
“The upper level would house the infirmary, and below would be the operating theater and other facilities.”
Ground-effect vehicles delighted designers – especially in the Soviet Union – but it was a concept that was never fully realized beyond the drawing board.
The Russians tried to build large wingships, like the so-called “Caspian Sea Monster”.
But the constant economic turmoil that ultimately led to the death of the Soviet Union grounded the plans.
And sadly, the truly massive Aerocon also never crossed the world’s oceans when DARPA canned the billion-dollar project in the 1990s.
Aerocon’s flying machine was considered too high a “technical risk”.
But could the Incredible Machines ever make a comeback?
Tim Samedov, a graphic designer who produced an incredible 3D model of the Aercon – as seen in this article, hopes so because he dreams of flying on board one of the airborne liners.
He told Sun Online: “[It] looks amazing and fantastic. I would like to ride on an ekranoplan. I think it’s a very promising technology.
“I think that [tech] would be perfect for the ferry or cruise ship role.
“But as far as I know, several models of small ekranoplans are currently being tested, so I hope that ekranoplans will grow in the future.”