Sunday, January 29, 2012

Simulate This! Boeing's Customer Experience Center

Did some flying today – just a short one hour hop on a US EMB145 out of LGA. There was a little girl behind me, in 5F, and whenever she started to mess with my seat back or make annoying squealy noises, her dad shushed her as best he could. I appreciated that.

I also appreciated that he wasn't seated in 4D, next to me, because he was obese and barely fit in his own seat. If the person next to him weren't a child, he could not have sat there. At least I didn't have to stand up for a seven hour flight (did you see that story?!). I chatted with a United FA last year who told me about her biggest fear – that she will have a "POS" who causes a safety problem or other "incident" because of his or her size.

"What's a POS?" I asked.

"Person of size..." she said. So now you know the terminology to use when you complain to the airline about the giant in 4D.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. I wanted to talk about the Boeing Customer Experience Center in Renton, Washington. I had a chance to go there recently, and tour mock ups of several aircraft, including the 787 Dreamliner, the 747-8 Intercontinental, and the 737 with Sky Interior.

It was fun; especially the next day, when I flew out on UACO metal to ORD and watched SMI/J smirk his way through the latest pre-flight video – I recognized the interior of the 787 mock up I had been in the day before.

Here are just a couple of pics from the visit. I took many more, but they aren't that interesting. They just look like the inside of a plane, which you've all seen. It's a cool facility though – ordinarily, it is only accessible to buyers who are shopping for aircraft for major airlines. That's not my day job, so I felt privileged to get a little behind the scenes access. But it was too bad they wouldn't fire up the full-scale simulator for me.

Almost as cool as the Dreamliner mockup was this scale model of the Sonic Cruiser concept plane. Unveiled in March, 2001, it was supposed to be developed as a delta-wing passenger aircraft that could jet you at 98% mach, up to 10,000 nautical miles, above 40,000 feet FL. But obviously the timing wasn't great. I guess you could say the whole plan was just a canard.

Get it? Canard?

Anyway...some of the tech that was being developed for this ill-fated project ended up being incorporated into the 787. The most important feature brought over may have been the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic for the fuselage. Why is that so great? Because unlike a metal vessel, a composite cylinder can be humidified to a higher level without corroding from the moisture. That may help keep your skin from getting all dry and flaky when you finally fly long-haul on the latest Boeing aircraft.

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