I am on a short east coast flight and had the pleasure of sitting next a 20-year plus pilot with a major U.S airline. I wanted to get his view of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (delayed yet again!) and of course, it’s more cautious than the Boeing spin machine.
He’s not sold on the 6,000 foot cabin altitude. He still likes 8,000-8,500 where less oxygen is more apt to put passengers to sleep. That’s especially helpful on long trans-oceanic flights. Boeing has heavily touted that passengers will be much more comfortable and refreshed upon landing at the 787’s lower cabin altitude.
“People are going to be more refreshed and the habitability is better,” he projects. But what makes people feel better will be the greater humidity that Boeing has engineered into the cabin. He speculates Boeing real reason for raising the humidity is to lower electro-magnetic problems with wiring. In a dry environment, electricity is more apt to jump through insulation to another wire.
Another concern is the existence of a connection between the flight control software and the public Internet service that will be offered on the new plane. He’s want 100% separation, not a series of firewalls between two systems that are essentially linked. “If there’s a connection, that’s the challenge for the hacker. It’s like a safe cracker. If there’s a safe out there, it presents a challenge.” DN reported last week that the FAA has officially expressed concern over the system as presently configured.
A question he raised is also about the life span of the composites. Given the 787 is made from 50% carbon fiber, the in-flight characteristics have yet to be proven on anything but a computer. We know when metal and plastic breaks, but we don’t know about composites at that scale,” he observed.
He thinks a more electric airplane is a good thing. For instance, traditionally hydraulic flaps, will become electric on 787. Hydraulics can be leaking on the ground, but in the air, they tighten up. “Airplanes break because they go from 90F degrees in Orlando to -50F in the air. Going electric is a pretty smart move,” he says.
I couldn’t help ask him about his worst moment was in flight.
“Usually, it’s a passenger getting drink and abusive. A guy once swung at me for cutting him off,” he says. As for airplane problems or favorites, he’s circumspect. “An airplane is an airplane is an airplane.”