Retrofuturist Flashback: Air-Liner of the Future


C Dudley Tennant's "Air-Liner of the Future" 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.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.