After the earlier battery scare and cockpit window crack issue that grounded Boeing 787 in early 2013, it resumed service in April 2013 and has pleasantly surprised passengers worldwide with improved comfort level and fancy interior designs. The much-hyped high-tech window on Boeing 787 meets expectations and even offers passengers in window seats a taste of the joy of flying.
Its name would have been “Global Cruiser” according to the voting results in U.S in the sweepstake for naming Boeing 787. And this is an accurate name because as the most fuel-efficient airliner, it can travel the longest distance. But “Dreamliner” was the name chosen by worldwide votes, which is perfect to describe this innovation-packed airliner.
Being able to fly was one of the oldest dreams human has ever had. Leonardo da Vinci, who sketched “flying machines” based on his understanding of the anatomy and flight of birds, was among the people who tried to make this fascination come true. Now airline service is taking over the world connecting people and places like never before. But travelers nowadays, living the dreams of the ancestors, are rarely excited about the flying. The joy of flying only exists on touring helicopters. The expectation of other flying experience ranges from bearable to daunting, depending on the trip duration and of course the classes of the airfare. The excitement of the destination is the reason for flying and help passengers to cope with the discomfort on the flight.
The ability to have the bird-eye view is at the core of the joy of flying. Most people are familiar with the sliding plastic shade for window, to choose between darkness and blinding sunlight. In international flights that chase the sun, such as flying from Seattle to Beijing, the whole journey is in bright day light and the the shades are usually shut, denying the appreciation of the bird-eye view. But really the sun glare makes the ground hard to see anyway. It is a pity to miss out on the views though, because the view underneath can include the Arctic Ocean and the Russia Serbia depending on the flight route.
The windows on Boeing 787 make it possible to appreciate these views thus experience the joy of flying. They are not only 65% larger than before and but also function like giant sunglasses, with five transparency levels adjustable by a button. At the darkest setting, the window appears total black to anyone except the person sitting next to it. For this person, the window adds a purplish blue tone to the outside world, enabling the sight of ice covered ocean and the rigid mountains clearly. And the sky is taking the purplish blue hue, transiting from a light sky blue near the horizon to a rich and vibrant blue at the top, like the night sky in late July. It is the perfect backdrop for anything fascinating; for example, Peter Pan will surely arrive in a night like that, if adding a few stars. It almost adds another interpretation to the meaning of “Dreamliner”—more than a dream airliner, it provides a view to appreciate the old dreams and to inspire new ones.
The windows, developed by Gentex Corporation and PPG Aerospace, are consisted of two thin layers of glass with gel wedged between them. Changes of voltage and current triggered by the pressing of button initiate chemical reactions in the gel to darken the window. It is the first electrochromic window in the world. Passengers in window seats have total control of the darkness of the window but flight attendants also have central control to override individual window settings when needed, such as keeping them clear during landing and taking off. The same dimmable windows are also used in Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350i, a special mission business aircraft.
These dimmable windows for sure will increase the appeal of window seats on 787 Dreamliner, because the views can compensate the inconvenience. The dreams of flying came true long ago, and this technological advance on glass enables more people to appreciate the bird-eye views which is the core of the joy of flying.
Opinion by Tina Zhang