Ever since the dawn of public air travel there have been countless efforts to do it in style, and a New York architect’s “Passing Cloud” concept may be the most unique so far.
Tiago Barros’ idea for leaving highways and railway tracks behind would put passengers on a man-made "cloud," built from balloons made from steel frames and heavy weight tensile nylon fabric. Barros’ idea was submitted to a US competition about rail travel (and, presumably, alternatives). While riding the Passing Cloud, passengers would sit atop the balloons and enjoy a leisurely drift to wherever winds take them.
The idea isn’t so different from hot air balloon travel as we know it, in that you end up in an unpredictable place on an unpredictable schedule (thus making us wonder if it’s really such a viable alternative to schedule-driven rail or plane travel). What does seem unusual is, if the photo is any indication, the altitude would be extremely high - well above cloud cover - and getting a comfortable seat on top of a balloon for many hours at a time seems, well, iffy.
Even more striking is the incredibly wide range of safety concerns that comes from riding an open-topped “vehicle” a mile above the earth’s surface. Still, there’s no arguing that it’s environmentally friendly and probably really exciting. We’re just not sure we could do it.
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