Atlas Airlines: How a plane could fly with tiny engines

Image copyright Airfix Image caption This model is based on the exoskeleton plane the US Navy built for an ex-Marine’s dearth of strength

A Singapore-based company wants to reinvent the airliner by using jet engines that are too small to fit inside a 747.

The company, Airfix, has showcased the current prototype at a media event in California.

However, testing is still in its early stages, and the company has not said when the first commercial run could be possible.

It has begun talks with international airlines about future sales.

Olivier Cazeneuve, president of Airfix, said the whole development process, from start to finish, would take between four and five years.

But one big obstacle to overcome is how to fit the jet engines inside the exoskeleton-like structure, which Mr Cazeneuve claims would make the aircraft almost as light as a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The plane is made from carbon fibre, formed to look like a skeleton, in addition to fibre optic wires, which are also used to keep the plane safe from moving parts.

“On the backside, the skeleton is from Rolls Royce and on the front is Airbus. Airbus did the wings and Rolls got the engines,” Mr Cazeneuve said.

“Our team together … have built the architecture we see here today.”

A further obstacle is creating suitable aircraft systems that it can operate with: “If we [make] a piece [of the airplane] that is too big … what if we lose that piece?”

“[It] will take a while for us to find a commercial partner to help us to find the right solutions.”

Another development area is cockpit space for intelligence gathering.

Mr Cazeneuve added: “We have to find out what is the most optimal way to deploy this type of equipment to make the aircraft feel like a conventional aircraft, to make a very quiet and secure environment.”

Although the company has yet to receive any formal aircraft orders, Mr Cazeneuve said one of the company’s attractions was its low cost – making it appealing for commercial airlines that cannot afford such heavy plane purchases.

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