Airliners are designed as if people are afraid of the sky. The tiny windows, never matched perfectly to the seats, are easy to obscure, and the insides evoke all the comfort and mundanity of a commuter train or, on really nice planes, a bland but expensive lounge bar. This is a shame, because passengers struggling through a pre-selected movie while waiting for their half-size sodas or miniature cocktails are missing out on a truly amazing experience: hurtling through the sky in a flying machine, the kind that’s only existed for little more than a century. So why not design a plane that sees the sky as a joy to experience, rather than an inconvenience to hide?
This concept, unveiled by Windspeed Technologies last month, imagines an airliner with a viewing deck. The craft, arrayed more like a luxury vehicle than a crowded economy flier, includes a lounge setup in the back with a special pair of seats on a piston. Passengers could get in these seats and then ride up to a special bubble/dome viewing canopy, where they can look out at the sky in almost all directions.
Airliner windows were originally designed to be much larger, but a pair of accidents with early Comet jets revealed the structural risk of big windows in the body of the plane. So making all the windows big isn’t a great idea, but a specially engineered dome (as strong as the windows in the cockpit) could probably work without jeopardizing the safety of the plane. The concept videos include both a tube-elevator design, as well as one featuring a staircase up to the dome.
But it’s the dome itself, and not the way up to it, that’s exciting. The sky, a pure open gorgeous canvas of sky, available for anyone on the plane. At the very least, it’d be a world better than an in-flight screening of the latest Alvin and the Chipmunks squeakquel.
Until these planes become reality, expect to see me hogging every window seat I get.