Thursday, August 10, 2006


 Even though the 787 is not a jumbo—it will carry about two hundred fifty passengers. The door opens onto a vaulted lobby rather than a cramped vestibule. And there is a surprising amount of light, thanks to the single most revolutionary feature of the 787: its huge windows. Wider and notably taller—extending from the armrest to above the top of the seat—they instantly erase that sense of walking into a claustrophobic tube. Moreover, they invite us to revisit the idea of flying as an ever-changing spectacle of earth and sky—like having an IMAX of one's own.
These enlarged openings are made possible by a radical new technology: Nearly half of the airplane will be built using graphite composites instead of aluminum. The superior strength of these composites means that the windows—which are essentially holes punched into the structure, something engineers don't like—can be thirty percent larger than those on the 767 without weakening the integrity of the fuselage. (The use of composites also makes the 787 about ten thousand pounds lighter than it would be if only aluminum were used, which in turn means that it will gulp up to twenty percent less fuel.)

Advances in power generation will provide the 787 with four times more electricity than has been possible until now, and this will have a theatrical effect in the cabin, where there will be a huge domed ceiling lights nestled within pairs of soaring arches. Artificial lighting throughout the cabin will be more adaptable that anything we have so far experienced. Flight attendants will be able to vary its intensity greatly, and to switch it from "day" to "night" to accommodate, even manipulate, our body clocks. And passengers will have greater choice at the seat: not just an on-off reading light but one that dims too. Electronic window shades will allow attendants to control the overall level of natural light while still leaving each passenger with the ability to see out clearly to the sky or terrain below, and of course to blacken their individual windows. The future also promises another significant step up in cabin comfort: greater humidity. The cabins of both the 787 and the A380 will have air pressurized at the equivalent of six thousand feet above sea level, rather than the eight thousand feet that is the present standard. This means the air will be detectably moister; what's more, the cabin air will be filtered to reduce dehydrating impurities, such as those from alcohol and perfume.

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