Windowless Planes: A Bird’s Eye View of the World, Coming Soon To A Plane Near You
Fighting for a window seat on a plane isn’t new for anyone who has ever taken a flight. You do your best by checking in early, paying extra, trying to win bets with your siblings, etc. etc. Fortunately for us all, technology hardly ever stays stagnant. Whenever we see a problem, we start thinking of ways to circumvent it. In the same way, even though other seats beat window seats by a ratio of 2:1, a time may be coming when every single person on a plane can get a window seat, or at least get the same experience they would get if they were sitting at one.
The view from a plane is always breathtaking. From looking at the glowing lights of civilization from above to flying over the sea to being able to gaze at a brilliantly white canopy of clouds, this is one view that rarely disappoints. Even when it is dark and stormy outside, there is an ethereal and dangerous beauty to the scene. And with Emirates Airline’s latest innovation, soon enough, no one will have to miss out on this amazing sight.
Windowless Planes – A Claustrophobe’s Nightmare Or A Dream Come True?
So how do we ensure that everyone gets a window seat? By removing all the windows of course! As crazy and claustrophobia-inducing as this may sound, this is Emirates’ plan to ensure that everyone can get the full flight experience. Based in Dubai, this airline wipes out the need for windows but allowing fliers to instead look through virtual windows that project the scenery outside in real time.
This feature is only one part of Emirates’ latest first-class cabins for their new Boeing 777-300ER plane. Game changers in every sense of the term, these new cabins come with private suites, sliding doors from the ceiling to the floor and other features built using the most high-end technology available to mankind.
To offset the need for windows, Emirates will now be using fiber-optic cameras that project the view outside to the wall in front of the fliers. According to Sir Tim Clark who is the President of Emirates, the image quality is of such good quality that you’ll actually get a better view than if you were looking outside with the naked eye. He looks forward to unveiling a whole new line of aircraft using this technology because it also makes planes weigh less thereby helping them achieve greater speeds and altitudes while also saving on fuel. Just imagine boarding a plane that seems foreboding without any windows only to feel like you have windows everywhere inside!
Sir Clark also believes that safety on planes will be improved if this design becomes the norm. Planes will be completely solid and their structural integrity will not be ruined by windows which actually serve to weaken the structure. Overall expenses for airlines will come down because of the decrease in the amount of fuel required and this, in turn, will lead to cheaper rates for fliers. This is also better for the environment as the carbon footprint of planes will be greatly reduced.
Ever since Emirates announced this feature, it has been discussed all over the world. Other companies are also embracing more futuristic designs. Boeing has come out with a Dreamliner aircraft which has windows much bigger than usually seen in aircraft. Airbus showcased a cabin with transparent walls at the Paris Air Show in 2011. Embraer has built the Kyoto cabin for its Lineage 1000E which has huge windows that run along most of the cabin walls.
To learn more about this development, check out the video below:
How It Works
The British Center For Process Innovation has also figured out how to make this work. Rather than windows, planes will now have OLED touchscreens running from end to end. Cameras attached to the exterior will relay the view to these screens in such good quality that it will all look very real. And when you get bored of the view, you can simply touch the screen to change it to an entertainment system.
OLED or organic light-emitting diodes are films made up of certain organic compounds that can project light when stimulated with electricity. This is the same technology that we use to make our TVs, smartphones, and laptops work the way they do.
But There Are Drawbacks
Of course, not everyone is as optimistic about this latest development. Victor Carlioz, one of the founders of ACLA Studio, a design studio in California, remains skeptical about the predicted improvement in passenger experience. According to him, retaining a way to communicate with the world outside is an experience in its own way.
The Chief Analyst working at StrategicAero Research, Saj Ahmad, also sees problems of practicality. While such planes would indeed be a marvel, they pose a variety of issues. For example, if there is an emergency situation, the crew on board should be able to see outside in order to help people evacuate. They need to be aware both visually and spatially and this is just not possible if there are no windows. Moreover if the ‘windows’ malfunction, then both passengers and crew will feel suffocated and disoriented because they will be trapped inside without any way to see the outside world.
Moreover, it is also true that fliers just like looking outside naturally. Tech is great but sometimes our own eyes are better. These new plans would also have to be regulated and new tests will have to be formulated for them in order to ensure fire safety, proper evacuation pressures, regulation of pressure and other factors.
Another expert in the field is John Strickland and he too echoes these worries. Though he agrees with Sir Carry that the structural integrity of aircraft would improve, he doesn’t believe that technology can effectively replace nature. Professor Graham Braithwaite who teaches at the University of Cranfield and who is also an expert on aviation safety also points out the need for the crew to be able to see outside. He stresses greatly on the way fliers will perceive this technology and the problems that people with claustrophobia and anxiety disorders will suffer.
However, at least on the topic of safety, the European Aviation Safety Agency has stated that most of these challenges can be dealt with to ensure that windowless planes are just as safe as planes with windows.
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