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Petroski on Engineering: Armchair Design & Analysis

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Dave Palmer
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Re: That IS a Bad design?
Dave Palmer   2/10/2012 6:22:18 PM
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The maintenance story reminds me of an episode of the cartoon Animaniacs in which two of the characters are trapped in an elevator.  They try to contact the maintenance department over the intercom, and overhear the supervisor telling one of his employees: "Hit it with the hammer, Big Ed.  No, the hammer... that's a wrench, that long thingy's a hammer..."

Later, after being trapped in the elevator for ten hours, the characters try to contact the maintenance department again.

"Are you still in there?" the maintenance supervisor replies. "It was our indication that you got out."

"Really?" the character says. "What gave you that indication?"

"That's just an indication we had," says the supervisor.

Henry Petroski
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Re: Historic commentary
Henry Petroski   2/11/2012 10:42:11 AM
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Airlines seem to have put their seating R&D dollars into improving the business and first-class sections on international flights, where seats transform into beds of a sort. Econmony class seat design does seem to have been static for some time. There has been, however, some improvement in leg room for a price to the customer. With the increasing prominence of narrow-body regional jets, it seems unlikely that economy-class seats will get wider. There seem to be simply too many constraints from available space and revenue to allow for much improvement.   

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Historic commentary
Rob Spiegel   2/13/2012 12:17:30 PM
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Thanks Henry. Yes, I understand the economics of space for the back of the plane. And the space has grown smaller over my decades flying. The basic design of tray tables, arm rests, seatbelts, etc. has also been static for decades. I would guess the airlines are simply satisfied with these design elements.

Henry Petroski
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Blogger
Re: Historic commentary
Henry Petroski   2/14/2012 10:46:14 AM
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The airlines may be satisfied with the design of the interior elements of their planes, but of course that does not mean that there is not room for improvement. The main selling point for economy air travel seems to be ticket price. Passengers seem to give that much greater priority than amenities relating to seat comfort. My feeling is that until passengers in large numbers let it be known that they are not satisfied with what the flying experience is like, the airlines will not redesign it beyond changes that bring in more revenue, such as more leg room, etc.  

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Historic commentary
Rob Spiegel   2/14/2012 12:07:56 PM
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Yes, Henry, I agree that ticket price is paramount for air travel consumers -- including myself. And I can't imagine travelers choosing on airline over another based on anything but price. So I guess that says it all. No reason to improve comfort.

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