Boeing May Dramatically Change the Way We Fly

[Technology ★★★]


(P1 If a patent secured by Boeing this week is any indication, the company is eyeing a major change in the way travelers fly. The Seattle Times reports the patent details a passenger plane that takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter via tilting rotors. The rotors, horizontal for takeoff and landing, rotate to become propellers during flight. Boeing was one of two developers behind the US military’s similar V-22 Osprey, which went into service in 2007. However, the Osprey can only carry up to 24 soldiers. And a prototype for a commercial plane that takes off and lands vertically from Bell, the other developer of the Osprey, can only carry nine passengers, according to Business Insider. Boeing’s patent calls for a plane that carries 100 passengers.

(P2) There are other major differences between the Osprey and the plane shown in Boeing’s patent. Boeing’s plane would have four engines housed in its wings instead of two engines housed in the tilt-rotors themselves. This means less structural reinforcement is necessary. The wings are also positioned lower than the Osprey’s, closer to a traditional commercial plane’s, in order to make maintenance and fueling easier. A passenger plane that takes off and lands like a helicopter could allow for more regional commercial flights to leave from small airfields, New Atlas reports. But it’s unclear if Boeing actually plans to build the new plane. “Boeing files tons of patents, so this might not even come to fruition,” a Boeing spokesperson tells Business Insider. “I’m not saying it won’t.”

WORDS: 252


VOCABULARY: patent, rotors, prototype, reinforcement, airfields, fruition


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you think Boeing will eventually build this plane for commercial use? Why or why not?
  3. Why do you think Boeing files tons of patents?
  4. Would you like to fly in an aircraft similar to the one in Boeing’s patent? Why or why not?


  1. What’s the name of an almost identical aircraft to Boeing’s patent?
  2. Who is the other company who helped develop the US military’s Osprey?
  3. How many engines will the Boeing passenger plane have?
  4. There are only minor variations between the Osprey and Boeing’s plane in the patent. (T or F)
  5. It’s uncertain that Boeing will build this new plane. (T or F)


What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • eyeing a major change (P1)
  • went into service (P1)
  • housed in its wings (P2)
  • files tons of patents (P2)

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