Think twice about avoiding that window seat: a look aboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

THE FARNBOROUGH BLOG, 19 July 2010. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is enough to make the hardened aisle dweller think twice about passing up that window seat -- even if he has to sit in the emergency exit row. Although a look inside the cabin of the new 787 eco-friendly widebody jetliner doesn't yield much beyond any typical widebody's passenger space, those windows make the Dreamliner worth waiting for.

The Boeing Co. admitted the media aboard the first 787 to leave U.S. airspace today at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England, and at first glace there wasn't much to report. The aircraft at Farnborough doesn't have any of those pretty blue-lighted ethereal interiors that you see in the corporate marketing literature. Instead it's got test equipment, wires, and steel walkways -- not exactly what I was expecting.

Still the 787 Dreamliner on display at Farnborough has a few rows of passenger seats -- still nothing out of the ordinary -- until you notice the windows. I sat by one, and it's at least one-third bigger than you see on typical jetliners. The extra space in the window is on the top, which affords the passenger a much greater range of up-and-down viewing than on other jetliners, and there is a conspicuous absence of any pull-down window shades -- and for good reason.

This is perhaps the best passenger feature of the new Boeing 787. Not only are the windows much larger than normal, but the passenger also can set the tint level of each window with a simple control between the bottom of the window and the seat armrest. Set the control all the way down, and the window darkens almost to nighttime levels. Set it all the way to the top and the window is clear and transparent.

Ever been on a mid-day cross-country flight on the sunny side of the airplane? Remember how hot that gets -- even with the window shade pulled? Well, no more on the 787. Think of it as progressively tinted sunglasses for each window. The passenger can set the level of tint for his or her own comfort level. No more bright-light whiteout, no more baking in the sun, and no more drawn window shades that are hot to the touch.

Okay, I know I shouldn't be raving about the 787's windows because there is so much more to this aircraft. The thing is made of high-strength composites instead of metal to improve range and fuel economy. It's a widebody twin-jet like the Boeing 777 for payload as well as environmental economy. The advanced flight deck is something to see.

Still, those windows are what the passengers will remember. It makes a big difference in the sense of roominess the passenger gets when he buckles in. I'm not quire sure what that means for the those with a fear of flying, though. Makes those blackout windows doubly useful.

See daily updates from The Farnborough International Airshow this week in the Farnborough Report, brought to you by Avionics Intelligence and Military & Aerospace Electronics.

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