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Welcome to the Paleofuture blog, where we explore past visions of the future. From flying cars and jetpacks to utopias and dystopias.

Airport of the Future (1967)

Since I was stuck at Chicago's O'Hare Airport all day, here's an article from the December 1, 1967 European edition of Stars and Stripes, which describes the airport of the future.


An architect says he has an answer to the complaint that the longest and hardest part of a trip often is getting from home to the airport.

Martin Schaffer, chairman of the board of an airplane architectural firm, envisions "containerized" passengers transported from near their homes to the plane and then to their destinations without leaving the seats in which they started.

Schaffer, who served as project coordinator on construction of O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, says new airport facilities will be obsolete before they leave the drawing board unless some drastic changes are made.

"Airlines already have enough equipment in the air and on order to swamp every airport in the country by 1970," he said.

"Getting through traffic to the airport, and the handling of passengers and their baggage becomes more of a problem daily," Schaffer said, "but with plans for 500 and 750-passenger planes to go into service in the next few years our airports will become chaotic."

Schaffer emphasized that bigger airports with more buildings are not the answer.

Shaffer's airport of the future has no large terminal buildings but consists mainly of runways for jets and circular landing pads for vertical takeoff planes. These planes are in the design stage, Shaffer said, and resemble helicopters except that they go faster and are propelled by rotating engines instead of blades.

Shaffer said long, tiring drives to the airport followed by parking problems, long ticket lines, baggage check-in lines and then the long walk to the boarding area would be eliminated by his new transport system.

Shaffer foresees passengers with their baggage boarding a "pod" from gathering points in the area serviced by the airport, Shaffer explained that the pods would be car-like compartments running on monorails through tunnels like an underground system or on an air cushion.

Several pods, carrying about 75 passengers each, would be scheduled for a specific flight, Shaffer said, and after picking up the passengers at designated stops, would go directly to the field.

Instead of seats for passengers, planes would consist of a large frame in which the pods would be inserted, the way baggage compartments are insterted into a frame now, Shaffer said.

The pods could be detached from the air frame upon landing and could carry the passengers to different points at their destination, he said.

"We've got the technology to build this type of system within the next 15 years," Shaffer said.

See also:
Commuter Helicopter (1947)

Living Room of the Future (1979)

Flowers by Alice (Part 1, 1992)