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Thursday, July 06, 2006

The science of boarding planes quicker.

Boeing engineer performing interior tests

From Randy's Journal

"In the U.S., this coming weekend is a huge one for leisure travel. A lot of people will be flying. And if you're like me, the process of boarding an airplane can be, shall we say, a real challenge. So I was intrigued recently to see some coverage lately of the newest ideas for "smarter" boarding.

One idea being tried out is doing away with the standard system of boarding by row, starting with the rear of the airplane. The new concept involves letting the quickest passengers get on the airplane first. Seats will still be assigned, but under this system you board when you're ready.

Maybe you've flown on an airline that boards in zones for the economy cabin. Recently some airlines have been trying out a "window-middle-aisle" approach to boarding. Window seat passengers get to board first, followed by middle, and then aisle, as a way to reduce how much people have to get up and down in their seats to allow other people by.

Other concepts have this whole thing down to a science, complete with mathematical formulas and computer simulations to determine how many times people are likely to get in each other's way during the boarding process.

Of course, Boeing is continuously studying ways to help the entire industry with boarding. We've been doing some research to see what kinds of things impact the process - although I can't say we've come up with any definitive answers.

Special "third-age" suits are helping Boeing learn more about how to make the traveling experience more "user-friendly."
We're also looking at how to make experiences inside the airplane better by designing for the various capabilities people on airplanes have. That shows more promise. For instance we've put our engineers inside special "third-age" suits and had them fly on commercial flights, to experience what air travel is like for older people who may have mobility limitations.

Out of this research we're designing new cabin interiors - the 787 Dreamliner, for instance - to be more friendly in terms of easier latches, signage and other features that we may tend to take for granted. That is, until creaky joints or fading eyesight make them a real challenge to negotiate.

While these cabin improvements may not yet make boarding a breeze, we think they're going to make the journey a more pleasant one in the air!"


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