Windowless planes may be on the way – a tactic that’s already in use in some Emirates first class cabins – but they will come with some unique safety concerns related to seeing outside a plane in real-time, like the need to see if there’s an exterior emergency.
In Emirates’ newest aircraft, first class passengers will be in for a bit of a surprise – there are no actual windows in that cabin. Instead, the plane has images projected onto window-shaped screens with fiber optic cameras. Sir Tim Clark, the president of Emirates, told the BBC that the images were almost indistinguishable from looking out an actual window.
“Imagine now a fuselage as you’re boarding with no windows, but when you get inside, there are windows,” Clark told the BBC. “Now you have one fuselage which has no structural weaknesses because of windows. The aircraft are lighter, the aircraft could fly faster, they’ll burn far less fuel and fly higher.”
There are some safety concerns, though. Not only might the refresh rate on the screens cause issues for some passengers, but it could also induce more claustrophobia and anxiety on flights. On top of that, flight attendants need to be able to see outside the plane.
“Being able to see outside the aircraft in an emergency is important, especially if an emergency evacuation has to take place,” Professor Graham Braithwaite from Cranfield University told the BBC. “Flight attendants would need to check outside the aircraft in an emergency, for example for fire, before opening a door and commencing an evacuation – and anything that needed power to do this may not be easy to get certified by an aviation safety regulator.”