I’ve been traveling a lot lately – a bit for business, a bit for pleasure. Being a seasoned traveler I refuse to fly budget airlines. Call me a snob but I like certain creature comforts. You can take away your packets of peanuts/pretzels. You can get me to pay for my meals and drinks. However, I draw the line at legroom. I’m used to rubbing knees and shoulders with strangers while traveling on trains and buses in England. It makes for some awkward smiles and a bit of shuffling but in the end everyone finds an angle that they can tolerate for the duration of the journey (more often than not it helps if you’re a contortionist). Yes I know I’m just shy of 5’6 but when there is less than a couple of inches of room between my knees and the seat of the passenger sitting in front of me then even my eternally happy soul becomes a bit grouchy. Especially on long-haul flights. I loathe to think how someone even a couple of inches taller than me feels sitting in the same seat.
Some airlines are dealing with the situation by adding extra legroom to a select number of seats in the main cabin and charging a premium for them. Others deal with it by getting rid of all reclining seats to give passengers more room. Allegedly reclining seats lead to all sorts of troubles on planes. And I agree… I’ve been witness to a few temper tantrums in my day. The situation isn’t fun for anyone – including the poor souls having to endure sitting next to a seemingly normal person who has turned into a sweating raging oversized 2-year-old. A couple of years ago I made the mistake of suggesting to the guy sitting across the aisle from me that perhaps he should put the laptop on his lap. His “face of thunder” told me to mind my own business which I proceeded to do promptly for the remainder of the flight. And oh, over the years I’ve practiced my newfound skill many a times.
Cabin comfort seems to be on manufacturers’ agenda too.
According to a recent Businessweek article Boeing’s new 777X jetliner is undergoing major design changes to allow for more creature comforts. Their crack design teams are considering factors such as changing entertainment needs, noise-dampening and improved air quality. Brilliant! I can personally vouch for the need for improved airflow and quality. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have sat down in my seat only to be immediately assaulted by a stream of freezing air from above my head. And any attempts at fixing the flow results in either an even more aggressive arctic blast or a sorry excuse for any air flow. Or even worse, sitting near someone who is sneezing and coughing and knowing that due to poor air circulation in the cabin you too will be exhibiting the same symptoms in a few days time … perhaps even in time for your journey home Ahhh who says travel isn’t filled with excitement and intrigue!?!
I suspect CFD will play a prominent role in their design studies. One of my esteemed colleagues, Dr. Andy Manning, recently made a presentation on cabin comfort and how 3D simulation can help engineers create better designs. The presentation aptly named Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Cabin Comfort using CFD is brilliant and features detailed studies on thermal comfort in passenger cabins and how conditions can be improved. Or if 1D system simulation is more your scene, then please check out the whitepaper titled Computer Simulation of an Aircraft Environmental Control System. The whitepaper features the use of 1D CFD for simulating the cooling pack as well as the aircraft distribution system and how to use this technology to predict the impact of possible design changes on system performance.
Unfortunately CFD can’t do much about solving legroom or the inevitable lost luggage problems but at least when we start using the new generation of planes/trains/automobiles we’ll all arrive at our destinations a bit more refreshed and hopefully without having witnessed any air rage incidents. And that my friends is a good start.
Until next time,