Air Transport World

Boeing 7J7 cabin an innovation greenhouse.

Boeing 7J7 cabin an innovation greenhouse

Boeing considers its 7J7 interior design to be a bellwether of future aircraft cabin standards. Of course, the six-abreast twin-aisle configuration will be revolutionary, and the fuselage will be the first purpose-designed for propfan powerplants, in this case General Electric Unducted Fans. But the rest of the cabin innovations that can quickly find their way around the industry will appear on the 7J7 as a coincidence of invention, so to speak, having nothing to do with cabin width or propfan, but related more to a convenient maturation of long-sought technology.

If the technology is as mature as advertised and if airlines and passengers want all the goodies being profferred in the Boeing 7J7 grabbag, there is a radical change in sight for passenger cabins and service. However, the votes are not in on how much of this stuff is needed or wanted, or even if some of it would be beneficial.

The single item that is at the same time the most sought-after piece of new passenger entertainment technology around and the subject of the fiercest debate is the seatback or armrest video display unit (VDU). If answers can be found to the many questions surrounding this idea the degree of innovation in the cabin will expand drastically. The VDU system potential, especially when tied into a cabin management system operated by the cabin crew and data link communication with ground stations, so changes the traditional cabin environment that serious studies of the effects are under way. The theme of next month's World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) annual meeting in Sydney, "Inflight entertainment--passengers in control,' shows the attention being lavished on the subject.

Single vs. twin aisle

Boeing has spent nearly two years in exhaustive sampling of airline passenger and management opinions on fuselage cross sections as the company weighed whether to go with the unique twin-aisle, six-abreast configuration or to stay with a rather conventional single aisle, albeit wider than before. At issue was whether the economics of the increased passenger appeal, speed of boarding and deplaning, and greater flexibility of the twin-aisle design over the single aisle outweighed the extra expense, greater weight and proportionately higher operating costs.

In the late 1970s McDonnell Douglas started toying with the same 2 2 2 configuration in the 150-seat class, calling it the ATMR (Advanced Technology Medium-Range) and then D-3300. Douglas cited the same passenger appeal that Boeing now is trumpeting. This aircraft, however, would have been turbofan-powered, and as such could not produce enough of an economic benefit over the MD-80 to warrant the development costs. …

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