November 3, 2015

A vision of more wondrously beautiful air travel... the windowless passenger compartment.



Fabulous... or hellish? To me, it's hellish.

86 comments:

Bill R said...

I'd LOVE it. But I suspect it's not for everyone.

One quibble, the seats are going to be wider. No, they won't be wider. There will be more seats.

Laslo Spatula said...

If I'm banging a stewardess bent over the sink in the bathroom I don't need a window.

At least at that moment.

I am Laslo.

Scott said...

Very early in the history of the New York City subway systems, they experimented with windowless subway cars. You're underground, after all, so what is there to see? Obviously people hated them.

When you're on a 747 or DC-10, the middle seats between the two aisles aren't next to windows. But I think if I was seated there and didn't see that there were windows on the sides, it would make the environment seem more claustrophobic.

Curious George said...

"Laslo Spatula said...
If I'm banging a stewardess bent over the sink in the bathroom I don't need a window.

At least at that moment.

I am Laslo."

And we don't need transparent bulkheads.

Bob Ellison said...

They should work on projecting the earth's surface on the floor.

tim maguire said...

If they made the video screens the size and location of windows, I may not notice. Plus, everybody can be on the right side of the plane to get the best view!

Two observations: 1. Bullshit they'll use that extra space to make the seats wider. 2. Yet again the fallacy of global warming is being used as an excuse to mess with our activities and experiences in order to save them money.

rhhardin said...

You need a horizon to correct inner ear sensations with, when there are likely to be inner ear sensations.

Scott said...

"If they made the video screens the size and location of windows, I may not notice."

I work in the second sub-basement of a skyscraper in Manhattan, and I wish I could post a picture of the office. They put 4' x 6' graphics of city views on the walls at strategic points to simulate windows. I'm not sure it works so well. If they're going to do that, then they might as well go all the way and put up pictures of beachscapes in Hawaii.

Sebastian said...

HD screens faking the view, free sedatives and optional Oculus Rifts should take care of any discomfort.

Laslo Spatula said...

Sarcophagus Airlines.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

The pilot still gets a window, right?

Lucky bastard.

I am Laslo.

Marty Keller said...

Oh, I dunno; the English accent makes it all so endearing and acceptable. "Men this way; women, children, and cripples that, eh, luv?"

Scott said...

@Sebastian: Yeah, it would be so cool if you could be put into a medically-induced coma for the duration of the 18 hour nonstop flight between Newark and Singapore. Especially if you're a smoker.

Peter said...

I'm surprised it's taken this long for someone to seriously consider removing windows in the passenger compartment. After all, passengers are cargo, and cargo planes don't have windows in the cargo areas.

Nor will driverless cars need windows. Just a few screens, perhaps, to keep the cargo amused.

tim maguire said...

Scott, is there something about the artificial screen that keeps your brain from forgetting that it's looking at a screen? Or could it be because the screen is showing something you know is not on the other side of that wall? Part of my thought that it might not matter was based on the expectation that the screen would show the same thing a window would show. But if you can't forget the pixels, then you're right. It may as well be showing a Hawaiian beach.

Oh boy, here's a thought--it's only a matter of time before hackers make it show the plane crashing.

madAsHell said...

Sarcophagus Airlines.

Will they pull your brains out through your nose?...or is that just for 1st class customers?

Michael said...

This is basically what we have now. Most passengers view the trip as an excursion to the movies and lower the shades. The person sitting by the window inevitably claims the right to close it so that their fucking entertainment isn't flawed by any glare. On the rare occasion I decide to sit by a window I leave it open.

Karen of Texas said...

Hahahaha... Reduced cost to you...

Jake said...

Vapor ware.

Larry J said...

Only two rows get to see much from the windows now. Panoramic displays would let people in middle and aisle seats see outside. They could even adapt a simplified version of the technology used on the F-35 to allow people to see "through" the airplane to things directly below the aircraft. This technology exists and would be fairly easy to implement on new design aircraft. Retrofitting it to existing designs would likely be more expensive if there isn't already a certified cargo version of the design. You can't just make a change like leaving out the windows without getting the modification approved. That can be expensive. Making the fuselage walls thinner is a serious design change best left to new designs.

One thing this technology could pave the way for is blended wing aircraft like what Boeing and Lockheed are experimenting with. They offer significantly lower drag and fuel consumption over conventional designs but it wouldn't be easy (and maybe not possible) to put in conventional passenger windows.

Scott said...

@Tim M: In my office, they're just wall graphics, like wallpaper or like something you get from fathead.com They're not actually trying to replicate a window view; they're just making a cultural gesture to "windowness" in the hope that it evokes a somewhat similar feeling to being in a room with windows.

So hell, put up pics of Hawaii. I love Hawaii. :)

MadisonMan said...

I like to sleep on planes. It's hard to do that bathed in sunlight.

For my next flight, I've a window seat, facing north. I hope to see Aurora.

I would not want to enter a plane with no windows. After it takes off, I don't mind if there are windows.

If they're gonna do this, I hope a map is superimpose-able -- so when I look and see a city and wonder "Where is that" I can see the map to learn.

MadisonMan said...

...having seen the video, let me add: No way will airplane companies do this to make seats wider. They'll do it to pack more ever-more-narrow seats on the plane.

Michael said...

How long before the wall graphics are enhanced with advertising?

The economics no doubt make sense, but the experience would be horrifying, especially if what was on the walls wasn't what was outside the plane in real time.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

Barf bag technology will need to catch up.

David said...

"I would not want to enter a plane with no windows."

The troops do it all the time. No window seats on the troop transports.

Heatshield said...

The CO2 saved will make absolutely zero difference. These are trivial savings designed to make people feel virtuous. If warming is as bad as claimed, we should be embarking on a crash program to build as many nuclear plants as possible as fast as possible. Solar panels, wind turbines and stupidity like eliminating airplane windows will not result in any measurable change in the climate. But progressive politics are all about feelings and not actual results.

Tragic Christian said...

My take:
1. Nope, there won't be a view available on the walls. There will be technical problems and they'll decide to eliminate that feature.
2. I concur that the seats will not be wider -- there will be more seats.
3. In Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff," the astronauts agitated to put windows in Mercury. The German engineers didn't feel it was necessary, as the astronauts were merely cargo. The astronauts felt that, if there were windows, then they were pilots, not payload

Eliminating windows will turn passengers into cargo, which is probably what they want.

David said...

220,000 gallons of fuel? It's gotta be a lot more than that.

David said...

"The economics no doubt make sense, but the experience would be horrifying, especially if what was on the walls wasn't what was outside the plane in real time."

But if it were, a 360 degree view ??? Might be amazing.

The Drill SGT said...

Marty Keller said...
Oh, I dunno; the English accent makes it all so endearing and acceptable. "Men this way; women, children, and cripples that, eh, luv?"


"Please pick up your bar of soap before queuing for the showers. I know it's a bother, but there's a war on, eh, dear?"

MadisonMan said...

How long before the wall graphics are enhanced with advertising?

'enhanced'. Heh. The perfect word there.

For only an additional fee, you can enjoy your flight without advertising! Otherwise, I'm afraid you have ads you cannot turn off.

:) (Sort of)

Scott said...

"For only an additional fee, you can enjoy your flight without advertising! Otherwise, I'm afraid you have ads you cannot turn off."

Just like Orwell's 1984. You can never turn off your screen unless you're in the privileged class.

EMD said...

So hell, put up pics of Hawaii. I love Hawaii. :)

Move. Now. Even if you can't afford it. Don't wait and work in a sub-basement. Only sub-humans should be expected to work in sub-basements.

Live, man, live!

Bill said...

I'm with Scott on the medically-induced coma for the duration of the flight.

JAORE said...

And when there is an issue with the feed to the screens, imagine the hilarity when the view is the "blue screen of death".

PB said...

2 things very wrong:

1. If the can put it wider seats, they won't. They'll squeeze in an extra seat in the row.
2. They won't put all that display technology in the plane. If you want to look at something, bring your computer.

It all comes down to the price of travel to the consumer. Given a choice for amenities, they'll say no.

lgv said...

Sounds fine. I rarely look out the window anyway. I've been in the middle seat of the middle section of a 2-5-2 configuration. I'm sure the status of the window didn't matter. Also, people close the shades most of the time anyway. Subways have windows, but it's more about looking out at the stations and not about the journey. We don't have windows on elevators. The pilots actually don't need one either. They can get a live LED screen like a mirrorless camera veiwfinder.

Blogger Scott said...
@Sebastian: Yeah, it would be so cool if you could be put into a medically-induced coma for the duration of the 18 hour nonstop flight between Newark and Singapore. Especially if you're a smoker.

We have a friend who used to fly Toronto to Hong Kong (a smoker). She would self-medicate and sleep the entire way. Sometimes making the connection was a problem, but not the 17 hour flight.

I'm pretty sure people would take wider seats and no windows if that were the real choice.

traditionalguy said...

All they need to add is a speaker telling the passengers when to hold their breath and when to breath again. Then you have a flying MRI machine that lets Medicare pay for the ticket.

The cosmic ray dosage at 38,000 feet cruising has more radiation than a brief MRI anyway. Which is likely the cause of many brain cancers among frequent fliers today. All we need is a lead foil hat.

Big Mike said...

I book aisle seats, and the last several flights I was on the person with the window seat closed the shade and left it there the whole flight.

Rusty said...

Althouse.
It's a fucking bus with wings.
Whatever gets the flight done in the quickest manner is all I care about.

Static Ping said...

At first glance I thought the plane was going to have no windows because the plane was entirely windows, like Wonder Woman's invisible plane. That would be horrifically awesome: the flying fish bowl! Disappointed.

Of course there would be challenges with such a design. I always wondered what people thought of a sitting Wonder Woman zooming through the air, as opposed to taking the Superman flying pose. There are also the matter of the bathrooms both for waste elimination and Laslo's antics, though that could open up all sorts of cottage industries for pron. And of course the waste container would have to be opaque, else everyone gets a nice view of the sewage. Or just get rid of the tank and let the crap get tossed out the back of the plane. Watching feces zoom through the air does have some entertainment value.

Freeman Hunt said...

Will the display wall be turned off when flying through storms? I hope not.

Freeman Hunt said...

They would need more airsick bags with the display wall off.

Michael K said...

Boy, how great ! It's Mammy Yokum air travel. "Eat like a pig and be slim as a snake !" All that CO2 and stuff gone !

Bob R said...

Cattle cars with wings.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe they can figure out what kind of projection will cause you to feel that you have more room... and then they can make the seats smaller.

Freeman Hunt said...

Barely related: A plane "crash" landed on a major street by the high school in the next town. I write crash in scare quotes because it didn't careen into the ground; the entire plane was attached to a big parachute, and it drifted to the ground. I love the idea of a huge parachute for the whole plane. No one received life threatening injuries.

People are talking about "how scary" it is. I don't think it's scary. I think it's encouraging. We can attach a parachute to an entire small plane so that it lands relatively gently onto the ground. That's impressive!

rcocean said...

"The troops do it all the time. No window seats on the troop transports."

They are getting paid to fly. Most of us are paying to fly. And we want windows. As stated, they won't widen the seats, they'll put in more seats.

Freeman Hunt said...

The story. I wouldn't want to leave school if I were there.

SteveR said...

Just try a long flight on a C-141

Rick Caird said...

I would not fly on a windowless airplane. The 757 has rows that do not have windows. I have gotten those on occasion and I hate it.

William said...

First class seats will have high resolution faux windows. The rest will be b&w with five inch screens.

Scott said...

@Freeman Hunt: The airplane with the parachute was probably made by Cirrus of Duluth, Minnesota. They pioneered the concept in private aviation. Definitely thinking outside the box on that design.

Bob Ellison said...

The real solution is, of course, teleportation. But if you're worried about your soul, you might not want your molecules spread all over tarnation like that.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

After push-back from the gate, seal the pax compartment and infuse with chloroform. Vent the pax compartment and refill with outside after landing during taxi to gate.

Problem solved.

Rae said...

This way Bill Shatner won't see the monster on the wing!
Who wouldn't want to be locked into a windowless tin can with a hundred other people for twelve hours?

Drago said...

Ann Althouse: "Maybe they can figure out what kind of projection will cause you to feel that you have more room... and then they can make the seats smaller"

Why doesn't everyone simply self-identify as "very small" and thus change physical reality?

The left already believes this is possible (nay, desirous!) so I imagine the next step would be to force..er.."convince" everyone else to believe it as well.

Problem solved. Next step on the path to utopia achieved.

Drago said...

Rick Caird: "I would not fly on a windowless airplane. The 757 has rows that do not have windows. I have gotten those on occasion and I hate it."

And yet, there you were.

Drago said...

The real danger is, of course, that weird "facing each other-offset seating" that Althouse blogged about some time ago.

Now that would destroy air travel.

Drago said...

Rae: "This way Bill Shatner won't see the monster on the wing!"

No one ever thinks about this from the gremlins perspective.

Anonymous said...

It sounds awful. I love looking out the plane window.

Skeptical Voter said...

The old DC-8 intercontinentals were just long tin tubes. They were single aisle planes stretched to an extreme length.

I've had the experience of sitting in an aisle seat at the rear of one of those stretch DC-8s as it rotated for takeoff out of LAX. The visual effect was looking straight up at about 125 feet of aluminum tube.

And on transatlantic flights most people these days just close the windows--don't want any glare on their entertainment screens. If you want to read a book using God's own sunlight you are just SOL.

Wince said...

It's like the capsule in the movie "Contact" when Jodie Foster could see through the walls as she transited the worm hole.

Or was that the pinball machine in "The Accused"?

I keep forgetting.

dbp said...

In terms of sub-sonic efficiency, it is hard to beat a blended wing-fuselage design and the thing is that there doesn't end-up being any horizontal surface to put a window on. What you would have is a very wide body plane. What I've found is that even the middle of a wide-body plane feels more spacious to me than a window or aisle seat on a narrow plane. I am kind of a geography aficionado, so I like looking out the window on daytime flights.

What I would really like to see are hypersonic planes that punch up through the atmosphere and take a ballistic trajectory to their destination. Instead of going 8 miles up and plowing through the air for thousands of miles, go up 60 miles and coast the whole way. In that case, who cares if there are no windows--you go anywhere on the planet in 30 minutes.

wildswan said...

You could pack a lot of people in if everyone just went as baggage. First you check your bags, then they check you. They put you in a body bag and knock you out with chloroform as some one above was suggesting. This solves every problem. No crying children, no fat person overflow, no lowered seat backs, no assaults by drunken passengers, no stewardesses, no lecture on wearing flotation devices; no terrorist seizure worries (you won't know), no meals to prepare, no shades up vs. shades down controversy, arrive rested. By looking at diagrams of slave ship travel you can see how many people could be fitted in this way because layering is possible.

Larry J said...

Rae said...

Who wouldn't want to be locked into a windowless tin can with a hundred other people for twelve hours?


It really isn't that bad. I rode a C-5 across the Atlantic many years ago. There were some 60 of us on the upper deck, facing backwards and no windows. It was actually a pretty good ride. It beat the hell out of riding in a C-130 or C-141. Funny thing, I rode in a C-141 five times but never landed in one.

Skeptical Voter said...
The old DC-8 intercontinentals were just long tin tubes. They were single aisle planes stretched to an extreme length.

I've had the experience of sitting in an aisle seat at the rear of one of those stretch DC-8s as it rotated for takeoff out of LAX. The visual effect was looking straight up at about 125 feet of aluminum tube.


The old Stretch DC-8s were even worse. I once was in the lav at the tail end of the plane when we hit some fairly heavy turbulence. I had to brace myself against the walls because it was trying to rattle me like a rock in a can. Not fun.

Quaestor said...

I love the window seat, and ask for one every time I fly because I love to look out and down. I like to try and figure out exactly what's below me by topographic clues. Of course when one flies over the ocean the view out the window is usually monotonous and uninformative. (Though not always, once when leaving Miami for London l flew over a surfaced Los Angeles-class submarine. That was cool.) On one occasion the view out the window was terrifying. I was somewhere between Minneapolis and Atlanta (I estimated Iowa) when I saw another plane pass behind my plane by only a several hundred feet, so close that I almost could make out the tail number. 99% of the other passengers had no idea of the close call, but I did. I asked a flight attendant but she just gave me a quizzical look. The other plane looked like a BAe-146, but I don't know if any carrier in the US flies them. I doubt it. I even called the FAA to ask about an incident report, but got nowhere.

Without the window I just try to sleep, or listen to an audiobook.

Nichevo said...

The BWBs would be awesome aerodynamically so it is a pity people won't accept spamhood. Maybe they could install floor or ceiling windows, then EVERYBODY could have one, even the aisles.

The military experience is not a great comparator except to show you can do it and live. Choice is no element of the military experience, I am thinking. If they could move you cheaper somehow by sticking broomsticks up your asses they would do it, happily they can't, yet.

Larry J said...

The military experience is not a great comparator except to show you can do it and live.

From a passenger perspective, the C-5 rides about as well as any airliner. I also got a couple trips in the small Lockheed C-140. That was an early 4-engined business jet. Very nice. Most other military transports, not so much.

Quaestor said...

One thing this technology could pave the way for is blended wing aircraft like what Boeing and Lockheed are experimenting with. They offer significantly lower drag and fuel consumption over conventional designs but it wouldn't be easy (and maybe not possible) to put in conventional passenger windows.

Old news is good news. Remember Jack Northrop, the aviation pioneer whose company created the P-61, the only-purpose-built night fighter of WWII? Northrop was fascinated by the efficiency and practicality of the blended wing concept, known then as a "flying wing." He built a number of prototypes during the war years, including a bomber, the XB-35, that wasn't ready before the war ended. The XB-35 had a number of issue, many related to it's pusher-prop engines, so the design was revised into the jet-powered YB-49. Northrop wanted to spin-off his bomber technology into a flying wing airliner. Here's his solution to the window problem.

Video.

The Godfather said...

I like windows on short flights, e.g., RDU to/from DCA, but for longer flights (trans-Atlantic or transcontinental are as far as I've gone) the only thing that would make them bearable is to making the flying time shorter. I was able to fly the Concord between IAD and LHR four times (my first wife had a serious fear of flying, and this was the only way to get her across the Atlantic -- at off-season rates it wasn't all that expensive). You got on the plane, had a nice relaxing lunch, and then you got off the plane. Put me in a 3000 mph plane and I don't care whether there are windows or not. Hell, give me a strap and I'll stand.

Freeman Hunt said...

You know how sometimes they pack you in, leave the gate, and then sit on the tarmac forever while someone checks something? Without windows that would be intolerable. No way would they turn on the display while you sat there.

Freeman Hunt said...

Aside: I don't think people should get in trouble if they're made to sit in a stationary plane for hours, get sick of it, and pop and emergency exit to escape. Forcing someone to sit on a plane for hours while it's on the ground is kidnapping.

sinz52 said...

Larry J said: "From a passenger perspective, the C-5 rides about as well as any airliner. "

In fact, that's how the Boeing 747 came to be.

It was originally Boeing's proposal to the Air Force for their new heavy jet transport program. Boeing lost to Lockheed's C-5A. So Boeing decided to commercialize their design--which became the 747.

Kirk Parker said...

Quaestor,

Beautiful... but I counted less than 30 seats there. How expensive do you think those tickets would be?

Quaestor said...

Beautiful... but I counted less than 30 seats there. How expensive do you think those tickets would be?

The video says 80 passengers. If the design ever came to fruition it would have to have competed against the Lockheed Constellation, which in its civil configuration seated about 80. Flying wings are less expensive to operate than conventional layouts, so the ticket price would likely have been commensurate. Air travel before the mid-1960s wasn't for the masses, which is why Boeing emphasized the luxury features of their Stratoliner derivative of the B-29.

Kirk Parker said...

Same class as this:

https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/our-aircraft/q400.aspx

No, I don't believe that huge flying wing would be cheaper to operate.

Colin said...

The first thing this made me think of was Blaine the Mono from The Waste Lands. If I recall, the AI uses it as a torture technique.

On a more serious note, it's probably a pretty cool effect, but I don't think most people would enjoy the experience.

Smilin' Jack said...

"A vision of more wondrously beautiful air travel... the windowless passenger compartment."

Fabulous... or hellish? To me, it's hellish.


You mean "hellisher."

Triangle Man said...

This needs to be enabled via VR goggles so that one can opt out.

rhhardin said...

Now Hiring windowless building.

DanTheMan said...

220,000 gallons in total for 3.1 billion people? So, on average, each flyer uses about 1/100th of an ounce of fuel, or roughly one drop. That can't be right.

Maybe they mean that, on average, each passenger uses 220,000 gallons of fuel over their lifetime? Well, a 747 can fly across the Atlantic on 35,000 gallons, more or less, with 400 passengers, or about 88 gallons per person per trip. To get to 220,000 gallons at 88 per trip, each passenger would have to make about 2,500 transatlantic trips. That one trip every week for 50 years. That can't be right, either.

So, they are aerospace visionaries, but can't do basic arithmetic?

Quaestor said...

Kirk Parker wrote: No, I don't believe that huge flying wing would be cheaper to operate.

You may not believe it, but nevertheless it is more likely than not. Firstly, Northrop's FW proposal was a turbojet. Take a look at all long-distance and many short-haul commercial aircraft, they're all jets or, in the case of STOLs, turboprops. Why? It's because jets are cheaper to operate than piston-powered aircraft. There reasons are varied, and I'll discuss them later. Secondly, flying wings are more efficient than conventional layouts. The entire outer skin of a FW promotes lift, whereas the fuselage of a conventional layout aircraft promotes drag. Thirdly flying wings are cheaper to build than conventional layouts because in a conventional plane when you've finished the wing you're less than half-finished, there's still the fuselage and the tail empennage yet to construct.

Northrop's civil flying wing would have had two competitors, the Lockheed Constellation and the Boeing Stratoliner. Both of these planes used supercharged radial engines. The power plant choice was mandatory since the Stratoliner was just a civil version of a military transport derived from the B-29. The Constellation was also a civil version of a wartime transport. Both planes took advantage of postwar conditions. In 1946 there were literally thousands of factory-fresh piston aero engines with little or no prospect of being profitably sold. By using what amounted to war-surplus engines Lockheed and Boeing hoped to cash in big up front. However, using piston power doomed these projects to a very short profitable lifespan. The Stratoliner died first after the Air Force discovered the false economy of piston power the hard way. The Constellation soldiered on with a few major carriers for a few more years, but when the Boeing 707 debuted the handwriting was on the wall. From first use to general retirement the Constellation lived a scant twenty years. Consider that fact in light of the 747's career.

Why are jets better than pistons? There are many reasons. One is the cost of fuel, LL100 Avgas is about 20% more expensive than A-1 Avtag. Another reason is engine life and maintenance. (The postwar piston-powered airliners depended on leveraging the skills of thousands of ex-military mechanics trained in their trade at public expense. When the jets came on line that also helped kill the Constellation.) Jets engines last longer and need less maintenance per mile of flight than piston power plants. But the big advantage is purely a matter of physics. When fuel is burned the energy released is mainly heat. Heat is the enemy of internal combustion engines, and much of the design is devoted to dumping a huge amount of the released energy of burning fuel as waste, either with circulated liquid or some form of air convection cooling. If you're a jet engine heat is your friend, the more heat the better (except when the heat melts the engine). In short, EFFICIENCY.

Quaestor said...

There are other reasons why commercial aircraft, even those engaged in transporting the stuff you order from Amazon.com, rely on jet power rather then pistons. One that occurred to me just as I clicked the publish command is the aerodynamics of propeller engines versus jets. Propeller are subject to boundary layer effects that reduces efficiency as the aircraft moves faster. As a practical matter it takes about twice as much horsepower to accelerate a piston-powered plane from 250 knots to 300 knots as it does to accelerate from takeoff speed to 250 knots. If you want to accelerate from 300 to 350 you'll need about twice the output again. The curve of diminishing returns from 350 knots goes asymptotic at 400 knots, which is why transonic propeller-driven aircraft are pretty damned rare. Speed is the enemy of piston-powered aircraft. They're all pretty happy at 200 knots, assuming the airframes can take that speed, but they dread going faster. Jets on the other hand are just getting into their element at 400 knots. That 757 you took to Kennedy last Thursday cruised at 450 knots not because the airline wanted to please you with a short trip time, but because the plane is most efficient at that speed.

Kirk Parker said...

Quaestor,

Sorry to have sent you off on this interesting tangent. I meant that something current in a flying-wing form factor that only held 80 pax was unlikely to be more economical to run than the q400. Yeah, yeah, the flying wing is 100% lifting surface, but it's going to have a YUUUGE cross-section if you're going to get passenger walkways as high as current regional jets. I don't see the construction costs being anywhere near that of the q400.