Tomorrow’s Planes: Higher Humidity, Mood Lighting explains some upcoming passenger-comfort improvements:
The wide-body — a Boeing 787 that will fly for the first time in 2007 — will be the first big transport plane with a fuselage built of composite plastics instead of aluminum. Composites are stronger and won’t corrode, and those are big advantages in aircraft design. You’ll feel the difference in the cabin.
Boeing’s 787 offers travelers significant improvements in the cabin’s atmosphere, including more humid air quality and light-adjusting windows (below).
Boeing Co. says the composites allow the 787 to have a lot more humidity in the cabin — about 20% relative humidity compared with a Sahara-like 4% or so in long-haul wide-body planes today. Travelers won’t feel as dry and contact lenses won’t be as scratchy.
What is more, the pressure in the cabin can be set to the equivalent of about 6,000 feet above sea level, instead of today’s 8,000 feet, because the airplane’s frame is stronger. It’s roughly the difference between Denver and Vail, a difference I feel when flying in an unpressurized single-engine prop plane. If I cruise at 8,000 feet, I arrive more tired than at lower altitudes because the air is thinner at higher altitudes.