Will hyperloop threaten aviation? 'Not in my lifetime,' says Boeing exec

Key Points
  • First envisioned by Tesla founder Elon Musk in 2013, hyperloop transport promises to be faster than air travel but at a fraction of the cost.
  • The concept is designed to propel pods through a large tube underground at speeds of 750 mph using magnets.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies capsule.
Source: Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Hyperloop isn't set to threaten the aviation industry anytime soon, a senior Boeing executive told press during the Dubai Air Show.

Amid growing conversations about reducing carbon emissions and cutting costs for air travel, Randy Tinseth, the vice president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, honed in on the technology that's been hyped as capable of revolutionizing transport.

"I think probably not in my lifetime," Tinseth said Sunday, in response to the question of whether airliners would face competition from hyperloop.

"When I think about hyperloop and its capabilities — you know, I live in Seattle. It took 13 years for them to develop and build a third runway at the airport. Can you imagine the environmental impact that would be responsible to build a hyperloop that goes several hundred miles?"

"I think it is potentially a viable technology, I think it could potentially compete at some time," he added. "But I think at this point the challenges are greater than the opportunity."

First envisioned by Tesla founder Elon Musk in 2013, hyperloop transport promises to be faster than air travel but at a fraction of the cost. The concept is designed to propel pods through a large tube underground at speeds of 750 mph using magnets.

Its developers hope to implement the technology around the globe. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been invested in designing the systems. Speaking to CNBC in 2018, Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson, who chairs Virgin Hyperloop One, one of the companies racing to develop the technology, called it "ridiculously exciting."

"When you're talking about the pods going at 6, 7, 800 miles an hour, both with people and cargo, that's tremendously exciting," he said.

VIDEO2:4102:41
New hyperloop passenger pod could reach speeds of 760 mph

Major hurdles stand in the way of hyperloop becoming a reality for people and cargo, particularly the complexity of the technology and elaborate tube system required, which is estimated to cost in the millions if not billions of dollars. Safety, regulatory, economic and public policy challenges also remain, but thanks to advances in technology and interest from major investors, the idea is no longer just the stuff of science fiction.

DP World, the UAE's state-owned port operator and one of the largest port operators in the world, last year signed a partnership with Virgin Hyperloop One to develop a cargo transporter. It announced earlier this year that it would launch its first such project in India, in a venture the company hopes will "add value" and tackle congestion problems in the country of 1.3 billion.