A debate was sparked online after Emirates chief outlined his argument for aeroplanes without real windows. Could we be living in the last few years of a real view out of your window, or this is simply an unrealistic vision? HEKKTA investigates.
A windowless plane? Could you think of anything more claustrophobic?
Well that is the argument of many people after hearing Emirates president Sir Tim Clark’s vision. Emirates have unveiled a new first class suite on board it’s latest aircraft that features virtual windows, and Clark’s dream is for the rest of the Emirates fleet to be the same.
He swears that is provides the customer with just as good an experience compared to an ordinary window, stating the image was, “so good, it’s better than with the natural eye.”
So what is the reason for getting rid of the windows in planes? It’s actually a very good reason! Getting rid of windows reduces the aircraft’s weight by half, enabling it to fly quicker and higher and it also vastly improves fuel efficiency.
Not only will this benefit the airline and the price paid by the consumer, but it will mean less fuel used per flight and could have a hugely beneficial impact on the environment.
Making the fuselage windowless will also remove the structual weakness that is created when windows are put in. Tim Clark explains, “Removing them would save 50 per cent of the weight of an aircraft simply because in terms of build and structure and load [they] are quite a problem and you have to reinforce a fuselage to be able to take them,” he said.
“Imagine now a fuselage as you’re boarding with no windows, but when you get inside, there are windows,” he told the BBC.
“Now you have one fuselage which has no structural weaknesses because of windows. The aircraft are lighter, the aircraft could fly faster, they’ll burn far less fuel and fly higher.”
Windowless planes could mean cheaper, faster, safer and more fuel efficient air travel. When looking at hard facts it’s hard to see any reasons not for all airlines to make their fleet windowless.
Concerns were raised about the safety of virtual windows as aircraft crews need a constant view out of the plane in case of an emergency.
Aviation safety expert Professor Graham Braithwaite of Cranfield University said, “Being able to see outside the aircraft in an emergency is important, especially if an emergency evacuation has to take place.
“Flight attendants would need to check outside the aircraft in an emergency, for example for fire, before opening a door and commencing an evacuation – and anything that needed power to do this may not be easy to get certified by an aviation safety regulator,” he added.
However, the European Aviation Safety Agency said, “We do not see any specific challenge that could not be overcome to ensure a level of safety equivalent to the one of an aircraft fitted with cabin windows.”
Other concerns were raised over how realistic the virtual image will be, and if it is not all that realistic, anxiety within flyers could be drastically raised.
A twitter user made the comment that, “Original Tube trains were windowless and despite the passengers having nothing to see, they freaked out and so changes were swiftly made. That was just for short journeys. A windowless plane would be far too mentally claustrophobic.”
There is certainly potental for the lack of windows to create increased anxiety and claustrophobia amongst travellers. But what we are struggling with is that you would lose the real pleasure of the incredible views you can get from a plane window. Nothing quite rivals seeing a stunning sunrise as you wake up from your slightly stuttered sleep. Equally, nothing beats flying past an enormous lightning storm, with huge cracks of light illuminating the night.
If virtual windows pass all of the various tests and can airlines can guarentee they work in all circumstances, then we could lose that amazing experience. Although Sir Tim Clark says the image is even better, you really can’t beat the actual thing.
In terms of design, efficiency, cost and our planet, you would have to say that it is certainly worth it. But would you have that same amazing feeling when looking out an aircraft window at 30,000 feet? Perhaps not, but if they can guarantee that the windows will work in all instances and are realistic, it’s hard to see airlines overlooking the benefits.