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Retrofuturist Flashback: Air-Liner of the Future

 Illustration by C Dudley Tennant. (Universal History Archive/Getty)
Illustration by C Dudley Tennant. (Universal History Archive/Getty)

Here's another amazing vision of the future, this time from 1914.

"Air-Liner of the Future" by C Dudley Tennant depicts an age in which transatlantic air liners soar along at 10,000 feet, but then descend in the case of an emergency to skim the surface of the sea. A flight from London to New York was expected to take less than 24 hours.

This design is pretty believable compared to some of the airliner concepts I hope to cover here, but its not without its wonder. Let's look closer for scale:

C Dudley Tennant's "Air-Liner of the Future" (Universal History Archive/Getty)

See the passengers? Suddenly everything's a lot more sci-fi, isn't it?

We never quite saw a triplane so large and elegant as this, but the painting still managed to foreshadow the very-real future of transatlantic flight -- at least in spirit. As for the emergency skimming, that's not a concept that ever took off, but its easy to imagine its appeal in the early 20th century.

Robert Lamb is a senior writer and podcaster at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind with Julie Douglas. He has a love for monsters, an aversion to slugs and a hankering for electronic music.

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