Clip-Air reimagines travel with modular mass transit aircraft

Credit: ClipAir

Unless you happen to live right next to an airport, chances are hopping on an airplane isn't the first step in your travel day. First there's getting to the airport, which either means leaving your car in an expensive parking lot or hopping on a train.

And that's what got the minds at Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) thinking. They surmised that most mass transit options are really just modules into which people are crammed. Train cars look a lot like the fuselage of an aircraft, for instance.

And so the Clip-Air concept was born. In theory, high-capacity Clip-Air train cars, each a self-contained fuselage, can be plucked from the tracks and snapped onto a set of wings. Customers would only have to board and pass through security once — at their local train depot. Once the plane lands, the whole process happens in reverse, dropping off passengers along a train route close to their final destination.

What's more, Clip-Air is designed to fit up to three standard fuselages under a single set of wings, reducing the number of planes in the air. If only two of the three fuselages are booked by passengers, Clip-Air planes can snap on a cargo plane to keep efficiency up.

Clip-Air has been under development since 2009 and is described by its designers as "quite a long-term project." However, EPFL has completed some encouraging studies which prove that their designs would indeed fly. And they'll be showcasing a model of their modular design at the Paris Air Show later this month. So, while there are still plenty of hurdles to clear before we see the ease of travel Clip-Air promises, this mega-project is already inching closer to being part of tomorrow's reality.

Clip-Air, via Gizmag

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