It's cheaper and more efficient for an airline to use one single large aircraft instead of several smaller aircraft, which was the initial motivation behind Boeing's venerable 747. Airbus cranked things up a notch with its truly gigantic double-decker A380, and a patent filed by Boeing last month suggests that a future generation of the 747 may follow suit.
We should point out that Boeing just started producing an updated fourth-generation 747: the 747-8, which features new wings and a longer fuselage that can seat an extra 50 people while also being 30% quieter, 16% more fuel-efficient, with 13% lower seat-mile costs. Still, the mammoth Airbus A380 can seat 250 more people than the 747-8 thanks to its two full decks, and it looks like Boeing might be getting a little bit jelly.
The patent illustration in the picture above shows a 747 that's had its upper deck extended through the entirety of the airframe, massively increasing its passenger capacity. It also looks like Boeing is trying to further increase efficiency by cutting the 747's four big engines down to just two even bigger ones:
Those two engines (possibly ultra-high bypass ratio turbofans) will have to be absolutely massive, however, which means bringing the wings higher up off the ground to keep the blades from tearing up the runway. And that, in turn, means integrating the wings straight through the center of the passenger cabin:
Not the greatest view, and I dunno about you, but I'd always figured that there was some important stuff going on inside the wings of big airplanes to keep them from snapping off or whatever.
As with all patents, these drawings don't mean that Boeing is going to go this route with a future aircraft, but it does mean that it's something that the designers have been seriously thinking about to the extent that it's worth their time to formalize it. And with the continuing pressure to go bigger and more efficient, it's certainly possible that a tricked-out 747 like this will eventually make an appearance.