Blue Sky Thinking

Christopher Fowler
Top shot of two rows of pagganger seats. Aircraft interior in business class. North-East England isn't a very sunny place. Perhaps that's what inspired the CPI, a product development organisation, to come up with this genius idea. The CPI is one of seven bodies under the High Value Manufacturing Catapult,
an umbrella group which receives government funding to drive growth in manufacturing. The aviation industry has a problem. How do you reduce weight, thereby cutting fuel consumption, thereby bringing down fares? According to them, for every 1% reduction in the weight of an aircraft, there is a saving in fuel of 0.75%. Oddly enough, one of the things that makes planes heavy is the need to put in tiny windows, because the fuselage needs to be strengthened to allow for them. So what happens if you get rid of them all, as you would in a cargo plane? Well, you get a very dark, scary-looking plane that has a smaller carbon footprint and is cheaper to run. So what about the inside? This is where
organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) come in — they give out their own light when activated by electricity. The problems with the technology involve price and their sensitivity to moisture, which means they have to be encased in inflexible glass, (as in mobiles and televisions). But now there are flexible OLEDs, which would allow the creation of screens suitable for planes. Electronics company LG recently posted a video of an 18-inch (46cm) screen which bends and contorts while the images on screen are broadcast uninterrupted. The technology is set to advance over the next few years, so that much larger areas can be covered with the super-thin projections system. So why not show exactly what's going on outside in real time throughout the cabin? You create a calmer atmosphere, a feeling of more space and light, and save the aviation industry a fortune. It's a decade away yet and there are all kinds of hurdles, but personally speaking I'd love to see it happen - even if it's probably a fearful flyer's very worst nightmare.


Wayne (not verified) Mon, 27/10/2014 - 09:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Who says the North East isn't a very sunny place? The sun shines an amazing amount of time up here..... That is when it's not cloudy or raining, which hasn't happened a lot this year. In fact it's been very dry and sunny this year and today is a great example glorious sun and warm.

Anchovee (not verified) Mon, 27/10/2014 - 13:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That the north-east is not a sunny place is a myth perpetuated by those who want to keep it tourist-free. It's one of the most beautiful parts of the country - wonderful coastline with wide open sandy beaches, so much history - castles galore and terrific food and drink. Dunstanburgh castle has to be one of the most dramatic ruins in Britain, Alnwick - home of the Harry Potter castle and Barter Books a terrific second-hand bookshop, Hadrian's Wall, craggy and atmospheric. Newcastle has some beautiful streets too - Grey Street especially. I'd better stop now in case I've said too much!

Slabman (not verified) Mon, 27/10/2014 - 22:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Having digital windows means never having to see the sky-yeti ripping holes in the wings. OK, maybe I have been watching the Twilight Zone too much...

Helen Martin (not verified) Mon, 27/10/2014 - 22:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yes, it's a traveler's worst nightmare, but perhaps we could adjust to it - perhaps. The sun shone us in York in Sept. a few years back - did tai chi on the museum's lawn.