Otherwise known as a windowless plane. The exterior is a smooth metal tube with only exit doors and high tech cameras to look at, while the interior is lined with ultra thin, lightweight OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) screens designed to show the exterior environment captured by the cameras. They’ll also act as a huge TV to project movies, presentations or even mimic the inside of a library and other “fun” scenes if you ever get bored of the endless “clouds” outside.
Now, I quite like flying and I enjoy a bit of technology but I’m afraid it’s all gone a bit far.
The idea for these planes comes from CPI Aerospace. The plan being that a windowless fuselage will be easier (and therefore cheaper) to manufacturer and weigh less, meaning that it costs less to make and fuel, meaning it’ll be cheaper for passengers. Now, I say it’ll be cheaper for passengers. It doesn’t actually say anywhere in the CPI article about the cost to end users, but you have to assume all these money saving efforts will benefit the customer? Surely??
“Weight is a constant issue on any aircraft. Over 80% of the fully laden weight of a commercial airliner is the aircraft itself and its fuel. For every 1% reduction in weight, the approximate fuel saving is 0.75%. If you save weight, you save fuel. And less fuel means less CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and lower operational cost… everyone wins.” (http://www.uk-cpi.com/windowless-fuselage/#.Vz28oeT2Q4A)
The OLED screens being used will be of the highest specifications and will be manufactured specifically to work within the plane environment.
OLED screens have a lot of the same qualities as an LCD LED screen – high colour resolution and long life span:
- 150 dpi colour resolution
- 100 cd/m2 display luminance
- 20,000 hours lifetime (around about 2.5 years of 24/7 viewing or 11 years of 5 hours a day).
It’s not yet been announced who will be manufacturing the OLED screens for these planes, but this will be a huge factor in how successful the plane as a whole will be. Technology companies such as LG, Samsung and Panasonic are all in with a chance.
While I can understand the economic benefits of these planes, I really see no benefit for the actual passenger.
The first issue I see is one of practicality. Greasy fingerprints all over these shiny new screens. Condensation from where someone has fallen asleep leaning on it (I’ll get onto that issue in more detail in a moment) or where a small child has attempted to draw on it with its felt tip pens. And what if the person in the aisle seat wants the screen on to look at the “clouds” but the window seat passenger wants it off as it’s too bright right next to their face? Gone are the days when the arm rest was a major point of contention.
The second issue is one of comfort. First thing I do when I get to my seat on a plane (and I do opt for the window when given the choice) is get myself comfy. That means blanket all tucked in with seat belt fastened over the top, headphones in and pillow wedged between the seat and the wall of the plane. And there is my point – will I be able to rest my pillow against these screens without messing them up? You wouldn’t rest your head on your TV at home for a little nap would you? Which nicely leads me to my next point – if they do mess up, surely that means one side of the plane is plunged into darkness? By the looks of things in the images, there is just one continuous screen all the way along the plane. Just picture it, flying over Paris, 20 minutes in to your 10 hour flight, only for the plane to suddenly be covered in system error messages and restart warnings, followed by a blackout. Imagine the terror and panic and claustrophobia all crammed into that little metal tube 30,000 feet in the air. No thank you!
While I’m all for better technology on planes, I think the money may be better spent on improving the customer experience. I don’t believe that taking away the only connection with the outside world while you’re trapped in a sealed box is the way forward.
Luckily, it seems there’s no plans to get these planes in the skies for another 10 years and even then there’s no guarantee that the airlines will buy them. For now though, make the most of those tiny little glimpses of the clouds – they may not be around for much longer!