Oct. 18, 2016, © Leeham Co.: It was a rare look into potential future airplanes and passenger experience by Boeing, which is known for keeping these topics close to
Mike Sinnett, VP of Product Development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, last week gave an audience of nearly 250 people attending the annual Governor’s Conference organized by the Aerospace Futures Alliance, a look at some of the concepts Boeing is studying. Some may evolve into actual products and some may not, he said.
“From a commercial airplanes perspective, it’s an amazing opportunity we face,” said Sinnett. “We believe the world will need nearly 40,000 commercial airplanes in the next 20 years.
“We try to develop airplanes that will stimulate growth, stimulate the economy and increase the amount of traffic.”
Sinnett said airplanes bring cultures together and make people-to-people connections. This is Boeing’s mission, he said.
Airbus isn’t sitting still. Bloomberg News has this story about the European OEM’s plans to improve passenger experience.
“What happens to develop a new airplane?” Sinnett asked. “It really takes two things. The intersection of available technology and demonstrated customer need. Those two things have to intersect before you have a product.”
Sinnett said “technology is something you work on all the time.” A number of technologies came together in the 787, but he said these were important regardless of whether applied to the 787.
Improved cockpits, interfacing with other systems and engines all saw advances that would apply to any aircraft, Sinnett said.
“Any time we do a new airplane or a derivative airplane, engine technologies are always a significant piece of that,” he said.
Boeing is always working on ways to improve aerodynamics, he said.
Advanced composites and aerodynamic structures “really work hand-in-hand,” he said. “One of the reasons why the 787 is so efficient aerodynamically is because the composite technology allowed us to build very long, high aspect ratio, very thin wings that had never been built before to that level.
“To try to do that in metal would be nearly impossible,” he said.
Sinnett said technology isn’t limited to the airplane itself, but extends to the interior with passenger experience. With the 787, improving pax-ex was a major objective.
There was a “specific design intent” to make the passenger experience much better than airplanes that preceded the 787.
Sinnett said Boeing created a cabin simulator to replicate flights, right down to the bad movies and food, to analyze why and how people feel after long flights.
“We studied what makes people feel how they feel,” he said.
Boeing changed cabin pressure, temperature, oxygen that was in the air and more. “We looked at qualitative and quantitative things,” Sinnett said.
The interior developed for the 787 migrated to the 737 in the form of the Boeing Sky Interior and to the 747-8, giving a similar look and feel across three airplane lines.
Sinnett said the future could include projecting images on interior surfaces to enhance the pax-ex.
Boeing continually considers how to tweak current designs to improve them in the near term. For example, does Boeing need to add what has become commonly called the MAX 10 to the family, growing the MAX 9?
“We’re talking with our customers to determine if there is a need,” Sinnett said.
The prospect of a 777X freighter is another example of expanding current technologies.
A mid-term horizon 10 years from now might see further refinements of the airplanes now in development (the MAX, 777X) or entirely new aircraft.
Boeing is working with NASA to study new airplane concepts that will be more fuel efficient and quieter than tomorrow’s airplanes.
“A great example is the middle of the market, where customers are asking for an airplane that is bigger than the 737 family but with less range capability than our current twin aisle family,” Sinnett said.
There could be a market potential for thousands of airplanes for this sector, he said.