Aircraft

Lufthansa pioneers frontier-smashing explorer yacht for the sky

Lufthansa pioneers frontier-sm...
Land the Explore on a scenic runway and enjoy the view on the retractable deck
Land the Explore on a scenic runway and enjoy the view on the retractable deck
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The Explore concept is not an amphibious aircraft, and certainly not a subaquatic vessel, but it can pretend to be whatever the owner likes using its expansive projection system
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The Explore concept is not an amphibious aircraft, and certainly not a subaquatic vessel, but it can pretend to be whatever the owner likes using its expansive projection system
Land the Explore on a scenic runway and enjoy the view on the retractable deck
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Land the Explore on a scenic runway and enjoy the view on the retractable deck
Lufthansa Technik Explore concept floor plan
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Lufthansa Technik Explore concept floor plan
The deck provides a place to relax or scout out the day's activities
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The deck provides a place to relax or scout out the day's activities
Projection system tinted into a normal aircraft ceiling
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Projection system tinted into a normal aircraft ceiling
The Explore looks very different from the average aircraft, influenced more by superyacht design
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The Explore looks very different from the average aircraft, influenced more by superyacht design
A virtual disco at 30,000 feet
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A virtual disco at 30,000 feet
The globetrotting Explore concept soars through the virtual skies
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The globetrotting Explore concept soars through the virtual skies
View gallery - 8 images

Lufthansa Technik takes inspiration from cutting-edge, ultra-capable marine vessels in preparing a concept aircraft optimized for frontier-breaking world travel. Its Explorer Concept is an airborne explorer superyacht or high-end overland RV, integrating a five-star hotel-inspired cabin into a long-haul aircraft. Instead of the days, weeks or months it takes a yacht or RV to saunter between distant points around the globe, the Lufthansa Explorer would do it in mere hours.

From ice-smashing polar-grade vessels, to big toy-hauling floating playgrounds, explorer yachts, also called expedition yachts, are a growing category of yacht optimized for long-range travel. They're designed to give owners the capability of setting off for and reaching the world's most remote waters and coasts. They feature robust seaworthy construction and ample off-grid autonomy, doubling as base camps for continuing global exploration via smaller vessels like tenders, amphibians, helicopters and submarines.

"In yacht building, multifunctional exploration vessels have now become a class in their own right," explains Wieland Timm, Lufthansa Technik's head of VIP and special mission aircraft services sales. "And many owners of such vessels also call an aircraft their own. For this fast-growing target group of VIP world explorers, we have therefore now created a flying platform for the first time. Unlike a yacht, however, our Explorer aircraft allows passengers to travel to the other side of the globe within hours and set up their own individual base camp for further activities."

The globetrotting Explore concept soars through the virtual skies
The globetrotting Explore concept soars through the virtual skies

To create its very own superyacht of the sky, Lufthansa started with an aircraft platform with which it's familiar, the wide-body Airbus A330. That's a 197-ft (60-m) long-haul aircraft that carries 250 passengers or more in commercial airliner guise and up to 25 passengers in VIP corporate jet configuration.

Lufthansa Technik rearranges that cabin space for a mere eight to 12 lucky VIP passengers, creating the spacious, luxurious ambiance of an eight-figure superyacht. It follows the yacht playbook with large, open spaces, lounge areas with long-stretching sofas, a regal dining table sized for all passengers, various owner and guest cabins, office and meeting space, and health and wellness areas.

The Explore looks very different from the average aircraft, influenced more by superyacht design
The Explore looks very different from the average aircraft, influenced more by superyacht design

Lufthansa can't quite replicate a yacht's large windows or majestic views inside an airplane fuselage, so it instead employs a little technological trickery to open the space up. The Explorer's projection system has been designed in cooperation with Diehl Aerospace and uses a series of small, passively cooled projectors integrated into the walls and ceiling to create room-spanning visuals, ranging from basic blue skies, to underwater seascapes, to ball-spinning discotheques.

Given the realities of actually flying and landing an A330, this "explorer" plane is by definition more limited in exploratory capability than an explorer yacht or off-road-optimized RV. Operators will need all the proper infrastructure to take off and land and won't be able to navigate to just any far-flung point on the map. As such, the Explorer plane is really more of a phase-one shuttle to kick off remote travels, a base camp and a jumping-off point for adventures yet to come.

To enrich the Explorer's adventure shuttle/base camp capability, the Lufthansa team adds an extendable veranda to the front fuselage, giving passengers a means of scouting out the surrounds and identifying targets for exploration. The 13-ft (4-m)-high deck is not quite as magnetic as an expanding yacht beach club inches over sparkling teal water, but it could still be a very scenic, relaxing escape so long as the plane is immersed in the right environment.

The deck provides a place to relax or scout out the day's activities
The deck provides a place to relax or scout out the day's activities

Explorer concept passengers will be further prepared to leave the tarmac behind and push deeper into their surroundings thanks to the craft's vehicle-carrying capability. Lufthansa makes clear that the Explorer could carry a car or 4x4 and come personalized with amenities like a mobile laboratory or emergency medical room.

In the future, Lufthansa will delve deeper into the Explorer's vehicle-hauling features, presenting a mobility lounge it's designing in partnership with vehicle upfitter Brabus. It says the lounge will showcase the vehicles on board and offer technical support capabilities. A staircase will join the lower deck lounge to the main deck, and a glass floor will provide direct views.

Lufthansa first previewed the Explorer Concept at the Monaco Yacht Show in September, before a fuller reveal at this month's Dubai Airshow. It will join Brabus in revealing the mobility lounge at a yet-to-be-announced future trade show.

In addition to the initial configuration pictured, Lufthansa says the Explorer cabin could be designed in a variety of layouts for up to 47 passengers and could also be integrated into other wide-body aircraft models, including the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787. The company plans to use the design study as an "ideas laboratory" to explore other possibilities in the future.

A virtual disco at 30,000 feet
A virtual disco at 30,000 feet

The idea of an expedition aircraft of this caliber is quite intriguing (minus the goofy pop-up disco), but it seems a poor fit for a huge platform like the A330, which doesn't offer the type of rugged, go-anywhere capability one would expect from any vehicle labeled "explorer." Unfortunately, more adventurous aircraft like bush planes and seaplanes are much too small for the full-blown superyacht opulence Lufthansa's going for. Being that it's just a concept, though, it would be interesting to see the cabin built into a hypothetical large VTOL or STOL aircraft, perhaps with a next-generation power source – nuclear? – guaranteeing world-spanning range.

Maybe that type of design will work its way into Lufthansa's ideas laboratory. In the meantime, should our lottery number come up, we'll go with a simpler, more capable "starter" explorer aircraft like the tent-camping MVP Aero.

Source: Lufthansa Technik

View gallery - 8 images
8 comments
8 comments
Chris Coles
Time to return to sea planes. Having to use existing aircraft landing facilities is the single reason why this is not a good idea. Yes there is always a market for private aircraft carrying very few passengers; but to explore the planet requires a sea plane.
CarolynFarstrider
Wrong in so many ways, not least its gas-guzzling engines, at a time when almost everyone is trying to reduce global carbon emissions and air pollution. Why make this type of roving meeting room at all?
paul314
Sitting on a nice verandah overlooking ... a busy airport. Unless the billionaires start building long runways and enormous fuel depots on their private islands and mountaintop getaways. But it does sound like something a few obscenely rich types might fund just to win the bragging competition of owning one.
Trylon
Didn't they ever see the animated Disney movie, Up? Airborne world explorers have luxurious private dirigibles. Then fly it up into a jetstream and you'd be really cruising.
WB
Exactly the thing a bunch of tone death Germans would come up with. Nothing like eating dinner in a busy noisy stinky airport - obviously zero thought given not even the basics. Or how does electrical power work for AC - normal planes have to run their engines.. so this thing will have engines running while they eat a lavish 5 course meal? Now someone could have designed a plane that brings vaccinations to remove places on the planet, but nah instead lets get another expensive climate polluting toy for douche bag billionaires. This unbaked concept doesn't even provide the PR boost you probably have hoped. Do something meaningful people care about with these resources something that makes you and your employees feel good. But another billionaire toy.. seriously?
guzmanchinky
Very Intense Polluter? Seriously? I know the vast majority of pollution will come from developing countries but this is just nasty in it's excess.
itsmeagain
Why does the woman in the orange dress have her hands tied behind her back?
ljaques
I can foresee four score and seven of these, each complete with a crew of 12 and a single passenger, landing for the current Globular Swarming/Crimate Chang meeting in BFE.
That's a pretty cool paint job, but I feel that it should have been given the true coloration of a giraffe it represents rather than the dull gray it is.
Two important questions: How many explorers are so fully funded as to =afford= one of these gigantic beasts in the first place; one or two per generation? And what kind of exploration could utilize any configuration like that? Can they transport MRAPs and other transpo trucks? People like Lara Croft make other arrangements. (insert clip of Lara landing in the tricked out Jeep by parachute here)