By Marie Mawad and Ania Nussbaum
It sounds like something Q, the tech guy in James Bond movies, would create: A plane that lands on a runway, 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 Chief Executive Officer Maurice Ricci said in an interview in Paris. 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 take-off. 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 disruptive ideas -- from Uber’s investments in flying taxis to Kitty Hawk, a startup backed by Google’s co-founder 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 noisy foray into jetpacks.
While Akka’s not banking on convincing a plane maker to necessarily build the entire “Link & Fly” concept, it’s betting on the design to be an attention grabber and a showcase, parts of which are likely to end up in customers’ commercial aircrafts down the line.