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Have a number of planes that cruise continuously at high altitude. After launch they stay up there for their whole useful life or until major maintenance is required. Much smaller shuttles bring cabins with passengers to these planes and hook them on. Of course the shuttles also bring cabins back to
the airport so passengers can get out.
The small shuttles only have to carry fuel for the short ride to high altitude which saves considerable weight and energy. The high cruising planes can be optimized for their purpose and also save weight. Solar planes for continuous flight are already in the test phase (link, yes they still crash but so did the Wright brothers). The cruising planes could use solar energy since they will always be above the clouds.
(?) Solar plane
[kbecker, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]
These cartridges would go nicely with this idea. [kbecker, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]
Nuclear Torque Drive
perhaps powered by this? [BLSTIC, Sep 12 2009]
||A good idea. Perhaps "flying wings" would be more efficient than conventional planes due to their increased fuel efficiency, and their shape would allow for safer docking of the capsule.
||Somewhere around here someone proposed using gliders in a similar fashion--they would permanently inhabit the jetstream. This is a good idea, one way or another...
||Although the solar plane is a good idea, when carrying large weights like 50+ people, you would need to be in light an awful lot of the time.
||Perhaps a better idea would be a plane power by my nuclear torque drive (now there's a cool name)