The Boeing 787 may be markedly more comfortable in many ways than the aircraft most of us fly on today, with bigger windows, quieter engines, higher cabin pressure and lots of other passenger-friendly features. But it’s probably not going to be any less squished.
Test flights are supposed to begin this summer on the so-called "Dreamliner," which has become the fastest-selling aircraft of all time with more than 500 now on order. Boeing has scheduled the first deliveries for 2008.
Boeing is promising the airlines a state-of-the-art jet made with carbon composites for a lighter body and lower fuel consumption. Here’s what Boeing is promising passengers:
Higher cabin pressure. Cabins will be pressurized to 6,000 feet, down from the 8,000-foot standard. So you should feel like you’re in Colorado Springs, not Machu Picchu.
Turbulence control. Software will automatically compensate for turbulence, mimimizing dips and bumps and, therefore, air sickness.
Bigger windows. Windows in the passenger cabin will be the largest on a commercial aircraft, about 30 percent bigger than the standard. And you’ll be able to dim them, completely or partially, using an electronic control.
Cool lighting. LED lights, instead of flourescents, will permit subtle shadings and lighting effects in the cabin, such as a simulated sunrise on a red-eye flight.
Bigger overhead bins. Thirty percent bigger than the standard, according to Boeing.
Two aisles. A double-aisle configuration gives passengers more mobility on board.
Which brings us to seating. Of course Boeing’s brochures show luxuriously futuristic first-class seats. But, as Reuters reported more than a year ago, most airlines are opting for a rather tight seat configuration in coach – nine seats across instead of the eight-across option.
With nine seats per row, expect a seat pitch of 31 or 32 inches and a width of just over 17 inches. That’s about what you’d get today on most domestic 737s or Airbus 319 / 320 configurations.
It may be that a few airlines will go with eight seats across in coach, using a 2-4-2 or 3-2-3 configuration. It’s nice to think they’d trade the 20 percent savings in fuel costs for a little less per-plane revenue. But the stark economic reality is that it won’t work unless passengers are willing to pay a little more for the extra space. (Are we?)
Anyway, there’s a great deal more to know about the 787, if you’re into that kind of thing, and most of it can be found on the Web site of Design News.