Each bean is housed in its own ‘capsule’, inside the pod. It is possible to remove only one bean and leave others intact in their ‘capsules’.

TECHNOLOGY

That will greatly enhance safety, aviation experts say. A passenger or two would travel in one capsule. Each compartment would be independent of each other but accessible from the aisle through an airtight mechanism.

The capsule will quickly detach from the carrier pod in case of extreme shock using a trigger technology like that used for car airbags.

Every capsule will be individually air-compressed and equipped with highly compacted parachutes to bring it safely to the ground in an emergency.

The parachutes will be made of high density, ultra-thin, ultra-light fibre material that could weigh less than a kilogramme. The capsule would turn into a boat if it lands on water!

Fuselages are made of special high-density fibre or ceramic, making them very light. There is technology to make more ultra-light material for the capsule to be versatile and withstand extreme heat and shock.

WEIGHT

Future aeroplanes will be made of the recently discovered material, graphene. The lightest yet strongest man made material; graphene is one atom thick.

A kilo of it will stretch over a football field. Yet it is stronger than diamond.

Therefore, weight will not be a problem for the aeroplanes. The double-decker Airbus A380 can carry more than 600 passengers, twice the largest Boeing (747-8), but is actually lighter than most long-haul jets.

Aeroplane wings could, upon impact, detach from the body, minimising injury. Solar energy cells on the body and wings could complement fossil fuel, minimising weight and fire risks.

This is not science fiction. Decades ago, computers and smartphones existed only in science fiction.

It is unfortunate that in Kenya air travel is a preserve of the rich. But it remains the safest and most convenient and enjoyable means of transport that we should be encouraging by making it cheaper.

Dr Mbataru teaches at Kenyatta University. pmbataru@gmail.com

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