There is something special regarding large flying aircraft. The Boeing 747 captured and the world’s imagination with its large wingspan and the Airbus A380 cemented the love of a double-decker aircraft. however, could we see a triple-decked aircraft sometime in our lifetime? And what would it look like?
What is a triple-decker plane?
Before we get into what’s possible and what is impossible, we should initial define what’s a triple-decker plane.
The Boeing 747 and Airbus A380 are presently defined as double-decker planes, however, they’re technically triple-decker plane when you include the cargo decks. With some slight modification, the bottom cargo deck can be made inhabitable for passengers and fitted out for their comfort.
In fact, this is the idea behind Qantas’ cargo class aircraft. Qantas has been looking at the cargo area of their long-haul aircraft (flying direct from Australia to Europe) and visualized sacrificing cargo capacity for additional customer amenities.
Or it could be filled with another large deck of economy passengers, pushing the capacity of aircraft like the 747 and A380 well over 1000 souls on board.
But what about a true three-decker aircraft, that included the fourth cargo deck in its design…
Would it ever be built?
Whilst the engineering is relatively straightforward (you just have to make the aircraft larger and expand the internal area to accommodate a middle deck) there are a few issues that might stop the aircraft from ever seeing the light of day.
The first is the engineering cost. a few years ago, Lockheed Martin designed a special delta-winged aircraft that could easily carry over a thousand passengers. the problem was that they required the combined efforts of both Boeing and airbus to even bring a prototype to life. A triple-decked aircraft which might be a brand new design would similarly require a mammoth amount of resources to bring into the world.
Likewise, airports would have shoulder the new cost of facilitating these new aircraft, with long runways and expanded terminals. Like with the A380, new gates would need to be built to allow up to three levels to board at once.
But the main reason it’s never been built and might never make it past the drawing board is there isn’t a business case for such as massive aircraft. Airlines have already fallen out of love with the lumbering A380 and the Boeing 747 is no longer under production (for the passenger model at least).
Until there’s a massive demand to move as many passengers as possible at once (rather than the same amount over the course of a day with different frequencies) then we’ll never see such a beast of a machine.