Modal shift – to Hyperloop?

Flying machines that could carry cargo? Preposterous!!!

Flying machines that could carry packages? Preposterous!!!

Today, we invite you aboard the Cargo Facts time machine (TimeCargoOne™) for a trip back to early January, 1904. We will take you to a posh restaurant in New York City, where a well-dressed railroad executive at a nearby table is about to be joined by a colleague.

As the newcomer hands his coat and hat to a waiter and sits down, the first man says, “Have you heard what those people did down in Carolina last month?”

“Carolina?” The second man asks.

“North Carolina, on top of a hill near some town called Kitty Hawk.”

“What are you talking about?

“The flying machine.”

“What? A flying machine? Did you start drinking before I got here?”

“Not at all. Well, yes, I’ve had a couple, but it is true that some amateur engineers built a frame with wings and bolted a combustion engine onto it. The engine turns a screw-propeller that pushes the machine through the air with one of the engineers lying on top of it to control the speed and direction.”

“Flying through the air on a box with wings and a combustion engine? That engineer must have been drinking.” The newcomer waves calls a waiter over and orders a drink of his own.

“You may laugh if you wish,” says his host, “but think about the possibilities. If they can make this machine somewhat more controllable – this one only flew a short way and then fell back onto the ground – it could be used to carry mail, perhaps even a passenger, between towns at speeds greater than our trains can achieve.”

“You can’t be serious.”

At which point the first man bursts into laughter, and says, “Of course I’m not serious. Oh, it sounds quite exciting, and I have no doubt there will be other amateurs who improve upon this first machine, but really…” He pauses, overcome by another fit of laughter. “But really, can you imagine? Flying through the air on a frame with wings? Perhaps even hundreds of feet above the ground? And faster than trains? Who would allow himself to be snatched through the air at speeds of forty miles per hour? Who would trust such a contraption to carry his important mail and packages?”

Okay, back to the present…

We all know how that turned out, don’t we.

Hyperloop One's proposed Gulf region route map.

Hyperloop One’s proposed Gulf region route map.

So, keeping the two gentlemen and their conversation in mind, consider a presentation made two days ago at the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit in Abu Dhabi by Hyperloop One, in which the California-based company suggested that its hyperloop transportation system could eventually take over the shipment of all cargo currently moving by air in the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

That’s about US$7 billion worth of air freight. Plus about 22% of the region’s surface freight and 13% of its sea freight.

This evening, when you sit down for an after-work drink with one of your air freight industry colleagues, you will probably have a good laugh, and ask what these crazy hyperloop guys were smoking before they made that presentation. You and your friend will be able to find dozens of reasons why such a crazy idea could never work.

And yes, you’ll be right to conclude that we don’t have to worry about losing business to a tube suspended ten meters above the desert floor.

At least, not today.

As for tomorrow, well, if you are interested in the future of the air freight and express industry, join us at Cargo Facts Asia in Shanghai, 25 – 26 April, where that future will be discussed by the industry’s brightest minds. To register, or for more information, visit

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