Hot on the heels of Clip-Air, the train-meets-airplane mass transit system, a second, similar design has surfaced. If you've seen the images of Clip-Air, you'll note the tell-tale flying wing shape right off the bat. Here too are the passenger cars, carried upon the massive airliner's underbelly. And yes, the cars detach and become part of a transit system upon arrival at your destination. Just like Clip-Air.
But if you look closer, the similarities between the two projects start to fade. For instance, The Horizon System is entirely electric. No fossil fuels are needed to keep the massive flying wing aloft — and aloft is where it aims to stay.
Guided by magnetic rails, akin to those of maglev trains, The Horizon System's wing module never actually touches down. Refueling (make that recharging) is handled upon securing the incoming passenger cars — the secondary function of which is that of rechargable battery packs. While the wing sails along its maglev rails, outgoing cars are released and incoming ones (pacing the wing upon the ground) are picked up. Once the outgoing cars are attached to their transit rails, they immediately begin recharging their cells.
Another difference between the projects is how the in-flight experience is handled. The Horizon Project does not confine passengers to their own cabin, but encourages them to climb up into the main wing of the aircraft. There, they will find a common space similar to the ground floor of a hotel. There's a bar, a lounge, a bit of retail space, a series of work cubicles and the obligatory restrooms. There's even a crew cabin. All this is situated behind a single, massive glass window which encompasses much of the wing's nose section.
Which brings up a uniquely interesting design feature. The Horizon Project has no cockpit. No cockpit means no pilot, which in turn means that this massive passenger-laden airplane/train/lounge is in fact (cue the drumroll) a drone. With six train cars housed in its belly, The Horizon Project is quite easily the largest drone ever proposed — and possibly the largest ever conceived.
So who are all these crew members, you might ask. Well, bartenders and concierge, of course. What with the massive drone not requiring sleep or fueling times, The Horizon Project is planned to stay aloft in perpetuity, never landing and never ceasing its relentless quest to get you where you need to go. There's no word yet on how the (captive?) crew ever disembark or the flying wing handle's maintenance. But problems like those are minuscule in relation to the massive shift the aviation industry would have to undergo to accommodate The Horizon Project. But with the design planned for implementation in the year 2050, maybe even that largest of hurdles could be crested in time for us to board one of these gigantic transit drones in our lifetime. If that happens, we'll gladly raise a prisoner-bartender poured martini to the aviation revolution of tomorrow.