in Werner Herzog’s 2004 documentary The White Diamond, we are introduced to Dr Graham Dorrington – a London-based aeronautical engineer who builds airships to explore the ethereal canopy layer high above the world’s tropical rainforests. we caught up with Graham over on the reader this week to chat all things aerial ahead of the Treetop Odyssey event at the ICA this weekend


_the various strata of a typical forest


with solar storms battering the magnetosphere, meteors lighting up the night and volcanoes spewing lava and ash you might think the world was coming to an end. but could the Icelandic volcano actually help save the earth? the cooling effects of sulphur dioxide are well documented, and this is the first time UK airspace – and beyond – has been completed free of commercial flights since mass aviation began. in addition to the thousands of tons of CO2 that won’t be produced by grounded planes, the quiet sky will give climate scientists a chance to take a second look at a world without contrails


_UK airspace emptying on Thursday, from flightglobal.com

small world

Issey Miyake and Shigeru Ban first began discussing the idea of a Japanese design museum five years ago, the result being the Design Platform Japan‘s first exhibition. currently showing in Paris and London, Japan Car is an examination of how the country’s art, landscape, cities and environmental philosophy have shaped the latest generation of small and eco-friendly cars – and what the future may hold. from hydrogen fuel cells and sci-fi instrument panels to Toyota’s ambitious i-REAL personal transport, it’s a look at what’s out there now and what’s in store


we were going to do a round up of all the clever little green cars on show at this year’s motor show in London, but even they look a little last century compared to this week’s big news – the rollout of Virgin Galactic‘s new mothership in the Mojave Desert. the lightweight, carbon-composite aircraft will take SpaceShipTwo (in grey) up to an altitude higher than most airliners fly, which will then drop down, fire its eco-friendly engines and blasts off into space. roll on 2010


_graphic: Virgin Galactic

air power

to mark the start of the bi-annual Farnborough Airshow on Monday, we thought we’d seize the opportunity to finally publish these almost art-like photos of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter under construction


_the finished product, currently being flight-tested. all these pictures, plus videos, are available on jsf.mil, the plane’s official site. yes, welcome to the 21st century, when even fighter jets have their own website

_a single, General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 engine powers the standard variant, while a more complicated engine is fitted to F-35B, which can take off and land vertically

_the tailfins and cockpit are added, making it look more like something from Transformers

_as construction of the prototype begins, the pieces come together like a giant Lego set ? if Lego made a 80 million dollar multirole strike aircraft with both carrier and Vertical Take Off and Landing capabilities

_photo: jsf.mil


on until July 27 at Wolfgang Tillmans‘ East London gallery, Autotechnogeoglyphics is an aerial survey of America’s automotive test tracks, from vast slabs of black tarmac in the desert to a giant sandbox that Catepillar uses to test their diggers. created by the Centre for Land Use Interpretation, it’s part of their mission to explore the ways we use – and abuse – the landscape


the massive Airbus A380 finally entered service this week, opening a new era of air travel. capable of carrying 850+ passengers between large airports like Singapore, Sydney and Heathrow, it could eventually form a key part of a greener global transport network – with large ‘hub’ airports and high-speed rail cutting the number of small flights. that is, of course, unless airlines decide to install bars, gyms and double beds like the ones Singapore Airlines showed off on the maiden flight


_photo: Airbus

dream on

Boeing unveiled its next-generation 787 Dreamliner this week, promising less noise and lower emissions. larger windows and a more humid cabin will make flying more pleasant, while sleekly curving wings and carbon-fibre composites will help improve fuel economy. whether this can match the giant Airbus A380 (which carries 850 people vs the 787’s 330) remains to be seen

photo: Boeing 


white lines

how do we overcome our addiction to air travel? that’s kind of the concept behind our contribution to Don’t Panic‘s climate change issue. it’s free to use and reproduce so long as you include a credit. email us if you’d like a larger or higher resolution version


_photo + montage: super/collider


long before Future Systems started making curvy chairs and skycrapers, Luigi Colani was creating bio-inspired cars, trains, planes and even spacecraft. this is his vision of a Mach 5 airliner, designed to fly from London to Tokyo in just three hours


_Colani fans at an exhibition in Kyoto. be like them starting next week at London’s Design Museum, where the first-ever UK retrospective of Colani’s work runs until June 2007

_Colani was, and is, big on vehicles and designs aerodynamic supercars for the likes of Ferrari. this one, a Ferrari Lotec Testa d’Oro could hit a top speed of 218mph

_it wasn’t all about transport, though. Colani also created futuristic furniture, outlandishly ergonomic grips for cameras, 360? sofas and this ‘spherical kitchen’ ? designed to hang outside a residential module

_perhaps inspired by the time he spent living in Japan, Colani designed this high-speed train for the German state railway, alongside plans for ultra-fast maglev monorails

_image: Mach 5 airliner by Luigi Colani


this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show is showcasing a series of next-next-generation eco concept cars, like this virtually unrecognisable Hummer. an entry in the show’s Design LA competition, the Hummmer O2 would run on hydrogen, with panels filled with algae to filter the air and ‘give something back’ to the environment – which might start to make up for the damage today’s Hummers are doing!

_image: Hummer O2 Concept // © General Motors