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Transpose, Airbus’s Radical Modular Plane Project, Is Over

Transpose reimagined the airline interior of tomorrow. But Airbus appears to have grounded the concept.

Transpose, Airbus’s Radical Modular Plane Project, Is Over
[Image: A³/Airbus Group]

Transpose, the radical, modular plane design developed by Airbus’s Silicon Valley-based A3 division, has been shut down. It reimagined the stagnant interior of planes with yoga rooms, sleep pods, and Disneyworld pre-gaming for the whole family, and was a winner in Fast Company’s 2017 Innovation by Design Awards.

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According to a spokesperson:

“The learnings and data from Transpose will be integrated into Airbus’s core business. With this approach, improvements in the passenger experience can be integrated into a bigger pool of commercial products. . . .

“Transpose developed new technical innovations and a body of research that demonstrated the real potential for airlines to positively impact their business performance by deploying aircraft that allow implementation of modular cabin elements. The consensus from the industry is that there is a demand for more personalization in commercial air travel, which is something Airbus will continue to investigate.”

In other words, Transpose itself is done. But the intellectual property, which has been moved to Europe, is still being explored–though perhaps not with the aggressive, cargo container design that Transpose proposed. Transpose didn’t just rethink passenger planes as a little bit more customizable. It actually repurposed technology from the Airbus A330–a cargo plane with massive, exterior-facing doors–to load in unique interior cabin designs between flights. That means airlines could sell flights that resembled anything from WeWorks to spa retreats, and even mix and match these sections by demand. Airbus’s takeaway of “more personalization” is a long way from pulling planes apart on the runway.

[Image: A³/Airbus Group]
We caught up with the project lead Jason Chua, who has recently left the company along with A3 CTO Paul Eremenko, to find out more. As Chua explained, he’d been brought in to jump-start a project on a two-year timeframe. “That’s what incentivizes us to move at the pace we do,” says Chua. “We knew it would come to an end, and we wanted it to come to a good and productive end, so it did.”

He continues: “I think we made a lot of progress in showing people there are other ways to make money with the airline cabin. It’s not for me to say what portions of what we did will get adopted in future projects.”

As for Chua: He’s spending the frequent flier miles he’s racked up over the past two years to visit friends and family, while plotting where he’d like to land next.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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