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After flying cars, now comes flying trains

It sounds like something Q, the tech guy in James Bond movies, would create: A plane that lands on a run way, shrugs its wings off, turns into a train and rolls on to rails to drop you off at your local station.

That’s what a French entrepreneur, who’s made millions by connecting engineers with industrial groups, is pitching to Boeing Co and others. ‘Link & Fly’ is Akka Technologies’s new flagship aircraft design, with wings that come off to hasten turnover at airports and make boarding easier and closer to passengers’ homes.

“After cars go electric and autonomous, the next big disruption will be in airplanes,” Akka’s CEO Maurice Ricci said. Boeing is among prime customer targets for Akka, as it seeks to limit its dependence on the likes of Airbus SE and Renault SA in Europe.

With Akka’s futuristic concept, passengers would board a train-like tube at a neighborhood station and have their retinas scanned for security during the ride to the airport. Wings would then be attached to the pod for takeoff. The company has showcased the idea in a 3D mock-up video, gathering interest from potential customers in Asia, Ricci said, without naming any company.

Plane makers have begun to react as technology companies come up with ideas — from Uber’s investments in flying taxis to Kitty Hawk, a startup backed by Google’s cofounder Larry Page that’s creating a battery-powered single-person plane. Airbus took the offensive with a new division to oversee transport of the future, while Boeing has made a foray into jetpacks.

While Akka’s not banking on convincing a plane maker to build the ‘Link & Fly’ concept, it’s betting on the design to be a showcase, parts of which are likely to end up in customers’ commercial aircrafts down the line.

Similar to Airbus’s A320 jet in size and target usage, the Akka Link & Fly carriage for short-range flights carries 162 passengers and the seats can be taken out to move freight instead. With the wings clipped on, and the engines fixed on top, the design has wingspan of about 49 metres, is 34 metres long and 8 metres high.

“After cars go electric and autonomous, the next big disruption will be in airplanes,” Akka’s CEO Maurice Ricci said. Boeing is among prime customer targets for Akka, as it seeks to limit its dependence on the likes of Airbus SE and Renault SA in Europe.
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