A major plane manufacturer filed a patent for a new plane design that has a shape and seating arrangement so futuristic and out of the ordinary some have likened it to a "doughnut" or a "flying saucer."
Airbus filed the patent at the end of October for a new airframe drafted to limit the strain of cabin pressurization. The design would also leave more room for flyers with a 360-degree cabin -- shaped much like an amphitheater -- rather than the tube-like structures of current passenger planes.
"The invention allows structure to be more resistant to loads induced by cabin pressurization, while allowing to reduce or even avoid the need for a sealed bottom, and while allowing to increase the space available for passengers," the patent application explains.
CNBC noted the passenger cabin's circular shape would mean curved aisles, but the patent doesn't describe what overhead bins might look like. Diagrams in the patent application also show passengers boarding and deplaning using "retractable escalators" that take them into the doughnut-shaped center of the aircraft.
The French aviation company says the current "cylindrical geometry" of today's airframes increase pressure at the front and back of planes and limited passenger-carrying capacity.
"A structure of that type has to be closed by sealed bottoms that are inherently more sensitive to pressurization loads, at its two longitudinal ends," the patent application states.
Airbus was able to secure major financial support for the concept, and the U.S. patent application even cites some investors by name, even though it may never fly. Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon told NPR that the company is not currently working on the plane, and it may never go into production.
"Some of these become the seed for other ideas with practical use," he said, noting the company files more than 600 patents every year. "There are some very clever people here that have fantastic ideas. And who knows? Maybe one day they will come to light."
The design may be happy news to aviation enthusiasts who saw Airbus file a patent to use bicycle-style seats on an airplane that would make even the most thrifty flyers wince.
“In effect, to increase the number of cabin seats, the space allotted to each passenger must be reduced,” the patent application stated.
It seems the doughnut plane would be much more comfortable.
(H/T: Financial Times)
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter