Future of Air Travel
But WaitThere's More
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What's happening: Boeing has something big in store for 2012.
The facts: Boeing has dominated aviation news in recent years with the Dreamliner, a new plane revered for its fuel efficiency, innovative design, and enhanced passenger comfort. (Its inaugural flight, for ANA airlines, was in October 2011; United is slated to be the first U.S. carrier in early 2012.) But the real game-changer of late is another Boeing baby, the under-the-radar 747-8 Intercontinental, which will hold 467 travelers and be the longest passenger aircraft in the world. Harsh fluorescent lighting has been replaced with the soothing glow of colored LEDs; enlarged porthole windows have been outfitted with electro-chromatic dimming switches to adjust how much sunlight filters through. Not to be outdone, Airbus's concept plane of the future (think 40 years from now, in 2050) is a veritable cruise ship of the skies, with onboard entertainment areas for socializing and a fuselage section that turns from opaque to transparent with the wave of a hand. Jetsons-like? You bet.