No, those aren't windows: The supersonic aircraft would replace them with video screens. (Photo courtesy of Spike …
We have seen the future of flight — and it does not include windows. The latest idea for a supersonic business jet from Spike Aerospace involves replacing cabin portholes with windowless display screens showing a fake view. Claustrophobes, take note.
"Cameras surrounding the entire aircraft will construct breathtaking panoramic views displayed on the cabin screens," Vik Kachoria, president of the Boston-based company, wrote in a blog post.
Passengers would be able to change the image or dim the screen to sleep — assuming the gizmo always works.
As the company points out, getting rid of windows solves a pesky design problem of supersonic flight: Windows slow things down and add to the weight of the plane. For a jet meant to cut flight time in half, "The very smooth exterior skin will reduce the drag normally caused by having windows," Kachoria noted.
Spike Aerospace hopes to launch the new aircraft by December 2018.
The S-512 jet, estimated by the company to cost $60 million to $80 million, would hold up to 18 passengers and measure 131 feet long. The trip from New York to London is expected to take just three to four hours, rather than the seven it takes now. But will the shorter travel time be worth the windowless flight?
"Windows are not a major factor for business jets," Max Rayner, partner in the travel-consulting firm Hudson Crossing, told Yahoo.
"If your time is so valuable you're willing to pay for supersonic speeds, it's quite likely you have more things to do than to stare at clouds. In all likelihood you may be conducting meetings during the flight or be asleep," Rayner said.
But no windows on a normal commercial fight, well, that's a different story. "It's another matter entirely for general commercial aviation where you have to be concerned about mass psychology and whether you could get odd crowd claustrophobia effects," Rayner said. "However, there's some research involving virtual reality that suggests that Spike's proposal of thin screens with images instead of windows would be an acceptable substitute."
The screens certainly captured attention on the Web. "If you don't design the system so that any content can be displayed on those screens, I will be disappointed," Todd Heberlein wrote in response to the Spike blog post. "You could make it to look like the passengers are in orbit around the Earth, flying over the surface of the Moon, or flying over a fictional landscape like Pandora from Avatar."
Another commenter joked: "A definite marketing/sales opportunity though — sell trips over the klingon home world to trekkies."
Kachoria, when contacted by Yahoo, noted that there would actually be some windows on the plane, although not at your seat. "There will be small windows at the exit doors in the passenger cabin. In addition, the cockpit will have a very large window for the pilots."
The recently unveiled Dreamliner from Boeing went the other way — adding windows that are 30 percent larger than on a typical commercial plane, at 19 inches high, according to CNN.
Instead of shades, the Dreamliner offers a dimmer button that can adjust the brightness of the natural light outside.
But the Dreamliner won't be cruising at 1,100 mph, as the S-512 is designed to do. "It will be the fastest civilian jet on the market," Kachoria promises in a promotional video on a crowd funding site, with plans to cut air travel time in half.
The video asks potential funders or travelers to imagine going to Paris for breakfast — and being home in time for dinner. That better be one heck of a croissant.
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(Click below for an entirely different kind of plane in a scene from "Airplane.")
- supersonic business jet