Current economics are based on the notion that fuel is expensive and therefore you try to fly huge planes with lots of people because it delivers better fuel economy. This completely dominates everything in the aviation industry currently from design, logistics, to operations. The economies are such that you only fly routes where you can fill all the seats and still pay for the fuel. With electric your energy cost is a much less significant. Your main cost shift to infrastructure, cost, maintenance, etc. of the plane. If electric cars are an indication, you can expect some reduced cost there as well.
So, suddenly, flying short hops with small air planes becomes cheap and feasible. So, why fly short hops with a few huge planes that cost tens of millions and burn tons of fuel when you can fly the same route with many smaller planes that you charge using solar/wind/etc. for a fraction of the cost? Changes the game completely. E.g. London-Amsterdam could be dozens/hundreds of 6-12 seater electrical planes instead of a handful of airbuses flying back and forth. Also, London City suddenly becomes more attractive because small electric planes are not so noisy.
Basically on board staff becomes the limiting factor, not fuel cost. Now add autonomous flying to the mix and you solve that as well.
If air traffic scales down to flights 1/10 the size of today, 10 times as many takeoffs and landings are needed to move the same number of people.
I don't think we have any way to get 10x the airport capacity?
Problems with lots of small planes:
* They fly like a roller-coaster (4 seaters are crazy scary for many people).
* More crashes - bad "optics"
* Number of pilots required
They do have the potential to have more direct routes, and very short hops, with less security overheads. Maybe run more regularly, but not much of an advantage because most people want to travel at particular times of the day (same problem with buses).
As long as they don't all need 2 pilots. I'd really like to see self-driving planes, must be easier than self-driving cars surely? (And, yes, I would fly in one)
A plane has to find a way of landing safely first. I am not versed enough in aeronautics to even begin to understand how hard it is to reach human-level in mayday situations.
The issue I think is that airplane autopilots rely significantly on sensors which occasionally fail. That means self-flying planes must be able to cope with sensor failures which generally means falling back to visual cues. Self-driving cars that rely just on cameras (rather than LIDAR) are a point of debate regarding their feasibility. Planes that would have to rely on just cameras likely have the same issues.
I wouldn't, if it was made by Boeing. Just look at how badly they fucked up something as simple as their MCAS system, making it only use input from a single sensor. That kind of incompetence isn't going to yield a safe plane that flies by itself.
There are many smaller airports in and around London that you can go to with a smaller plane and quite a few that are more convenient to get to from inside the city. If noise and pollution stop being concerns, many of those would be able to absorb the traffic and building more would be a lot less controversial.
One example would be eyes in mammals and eyes in cephalopods: they are extremely similar safe for some details (the location of the blind spot is different, but it's there) even though both groups are hundreds of million of years apart!
Wingtips alone will give away Airbus vs Boeing on all current in-production models.
But for most people when they look at a plane it's either from the front or the back. Boeing planes have a sharp tapered nose. Airbus have rounder nose with a steep incline at the cockpit window. To me, one looks like a shark and the other a dolphin.
It get's complicated for the smaller, regional fleets. I know an ATR when I see it but I would have some difficulty differentiating an Embraer from a CRJ or 707.
Or if you believe these nerds, a sort of flint axe with little weedy wings:
SpaceX hopes to eventually provide business-class and other Earth2Earth service with its BFR/Starship/SuperHeavy, a two-stage (1st returns to launch site) stainless-steel rocket. The design is still in flux, and may or may not end up with enough wings to be somewhat "aircraft"-ish... rather than just a belly-flopping skydiving spacecraft with a bit of body lift and wing-like control surfaces. But it's certainly visually distinctive.
For example I was hoping that electric cars would lead to a reevaluation of the basic design of a car and we would see something new but instead electric cars look pretty much like cars with a gas engine.
What were you hoping for? There's only so much you can do with the basic design of a car. It needs to have crumple zones in the front and rear for safety (really old cars with radically different designs didn't have this, but they weren't safe in a crash), and a car that can't seat 4 generally won't sell, so you're not going to get anything that looks substantially different from today's cars.