Windows 787

No doubt a lot of the buzz when passengers start flying in the 787 Dreamliner is going to be about the windows.

They’re really big, and will give everyone on the airplane a view of the horizon. But there’s something else special about them - no window shades. They’re dimmable electronically.


We’ve just posted a feature story and video about the technology behind the Dreamliner’s windows.

As you’ll see in our video, a 787 flight crew will be able to manage the window “state” of an individual passenger window, a cabin section or all windows on the airplane.

I’d be curious to learn your thoughts about what these new windows will mean for you as a traveler.

Comments (32)

Andrew (Seattle, WA):

Nice... Now I can use my laptop and enjoy the view outside, instead of closing my window shade so I can see my screen. It's cool to see an airliner being developed for a 21st century lifestyle.

Cameron (Vancouver, BC):

I think this is a great idea.

One benefit I can see, as a passenger that cannot sleep on the plane is that we can have a window dimmed. I usually wake up well before the majority of passengers and as a bit of an Aviation Geek I enjoy looking out the window. Opening my shades early blinds all the passengers within 5 seats from me, with this system I'll by able to un-dim the window slightly so I can see but not let all the light in.

This will also be great for Flight Attendants not having to go around asking people to open or close their blinds. It's always just after I've settled in for the night that they come round and remind me.

My only concern is what happens to this gel in 30+ years when the aircraft is inevitably still in use? Does this gel deteriorate and if it does can it easily be replaced?

Keep up the great work!

Richard M (New South Wales):

I look forward to flying on the super-efficient game-changer 787 and watching clouds, terrain and sunsets from the big windows!

The darkness control is very innovative, and I'd love to try it.

Good Luck with the testing!

Phil (Chicago IL):

A big thumbs down- I want the ability to control my own window shade, and this doesn't appear to be possible with this system. The miracle of flight has been forgotten- people would rather stare at a movie than look outside!

Thomas Horstmann (Portland):

The size of the window is what impresses me most about the plane, as generally you can't see anything from a seat or two over thanks to small windows and poor sight lines. Hopefully the Dreamliner's larger windows allow for a better downward view from those sitting in an aisle seat or in the middle section.

As for the electronic shades, light years ahead of anything else out there. Just one more example of why the Dreamliner is a game changing aircraft.

Keep up the GREAT work.

Theoden (Clinton, MI):

The only part of this that will be bad is the automation with all of the windows automatically full open (when the plane is below 10,000 feet) if sunlight is angled directly into the cabin. Sometimes when you are making the approach in the morning the sun hits you just right so you pull the shade down. If a passenger tries to darken the window and there is no response they're going to see it as a negative. Perhaps "soft" window controls not unlike the difference between Boeing flight controls and Airbus flight controls?

Regardless, the windows are third in the long list of cool things about this plane, behind "being made from Composites" and "electric bleeds".

Thiagarajan (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia):

Great!...Another innovative process improvement from Boeing

Mark (Sydney, Australia):

Pure Magic, I can see this will create some family arguments over who gets the control seat. If you need some "ultimate load testing" on the switch assembly my three kids are well qualified!!!

Michael (WA):

I like the idea...but the windows don't go completely dark. What happens when the sun is shining directly in, especially when pax are trying to sleep?

Marc S (Everett, WA):

While I applaud the technology as an advancement over the window shades of the past, I'm pretty sure I'll be more frustrated than ever when I fly on a 787.

I always get a window seat, because I always want to look out at the terrain passing below. Being told to close my shade for a movie, or "just because" is taking away the very reason to sit there. Seeing that attendants can darken my window remotely will make flights that much more annoying.

Why have windows at all, when you're not allowed to look through them half the time?

TF (Phoenix, AZ):

Like Cameron, I enjoy looking out the window during a flight. With flight attendants being fairly aggressive about closing the shades as soon as we take off, can the passenger 'overide' the central control panel if it's set for maximum darkness?
If no, I'd be pretty upset.

Gary Baye (Everett ):

Good application of electrical optical control of windows, I read about this in Popular Science about 20 years ago.
787 is a ground breaker, it keeps moving the bar!

filbert (Kansas City, MO):

Cabin crew able to "manage" a window shade?

I may be reacting on insufficient information, but this sounds like a TERRIBLE idea. (Or, perhaps, a potentially good idea badly executed.)

I enjoy looking out the window as we overfly the Earth--land or ocean, day or night. (At night over oceans I sometimes star-gaze from 30,000 feet . . .)

I've been asked (told) in the past by cabin crew to close my window shade "so that others can sleep." Well, I'm one of those people who **can't** sleep on airplanes. So what am I supposed to do?

Let's say the crew dims all of the passenger windows. If a passenger "opens" the window again, the result could be a little window shade war going on between the passenger at his seat and the flight attendant at the control panel. The result of this will either be an angry/frustrated flight attendant, or an angry/frustrated passenger, or both.

This does not seem to me to be a good result.

Now, if you could do a real electronic window shade, where the passenger could "lift" it from the bottom, maybe opening it partially, keeping the majority of the window opaque but allowing the passenger to adjust the opacity of the bottom portion of it, I'd have a different opinion.

But from what I see in the video and here, it will wind up, in actual operation, being an all-or-nothing thing for passengers, with nothing being what passengers like me are allowed by cabin crews.

Watching the world pass underneath me is the biggest single thing I enjoy about flying. And yes, I do understand that I'm in a definite minority. But, you did ask for opinions . . .

If my understanding of how this feature works, and how it will be used by cabin crews is correct, it will cause me to select an aircraft other than a 787--one with manual window shades--if one is available.

nathan (Mendocino, California):

I always get a window seat when I fly, because I love looking out the window, and often take photos if I see a beautiful cloud formation or land feature. If these new windows on occasion prevent me from looking out, well, there goes most of the fun of flying. Also, if the cabin crew decides to put the outside view on "dim," just when a beautiful view is to be had, that would be excruciatingly frustrating when the "dim" setting of the window hinders taking a photo, let alone enjoying the view.

Chris C (South Africa):

Personally, I think the cabin window technology, and design, incorporated in the super-efficient 787 Dreamliner is simply fantastic, period. Aside from its size -- 19 inches tall and 65 percent larger than the industry standard --this window technology and design with “re-invigorate” the passion of flying for some many passengers. It’ll certainly re-connect many passengers to the joy and wonder of flight, and offer a better environment for all.

As window-shades have to be open during taxi/take-off and landing, due to many safety reasons such as acclimatising one’s eyes with the natural light from the outside world and seeing what’s around the airplane in case of an evacuation, I think it’s absolutely imperative that the cabin crew have the ultimate say in the window-shade “issues”.

At least the window-shade design in the 787 allows for “viewing-options”, and not just open or closed. I’ve been sold on the idea of dimmable window-shades ever since I’ve been driving cars with automatic dimming rear-view mirrors. Although not essentially the same function, the dimming and brightening levels are easier on my eyes than just the crude “clear” and “dim” settings. This will hold true in the passenger cabin of the 787...although technically, being a commercial pilot, I hope to be the one flying the airplane instead! : )

Phil (Wokingham Berkshire UK):

Innovative no denying but practical?
Taking individual blind control away from the passenger is perhaps not a good move, as an habitual window watcher the constant blind adjusting to counter course changes & to avoid annoying my fellow passengers is required. The ability to adjust the light intensity within the seat thereby maintaining the onus with the passenger must be the preffered option or not having the facility at all would have been more prudent.

The vast differential of cabin crews quality (even within a given airline) means this is yet another task cabin crew must perform & I assume reacy to constant adjustments as dictated by individual passengers pressing that infernal call button.

Steve (Seattle):

I think some people might have missed the point. You can always see outside because the windows don't dim completely. So even if the flight attendants make them dark, you can still see outside. Secondly, for those upset you can't shut the shade when the sun is shining the windows darkens enough where it won't be an issue. I think the technology is great and giving passengers some override and control at the window is a great idea as people love to be in control.

Loren Criss (Kent WA):

From a techy idea it is great. From a weight saving idea it is somewhere between stink and smell (you decide). All those extra cables to each window builds up weight. I thought the whole idea of this plane was to save weight and a 20% fuel saving. Boeing should make this an optional "bell and whistle" for our custormers. I wonder how much extra weight is envolved here verses simple pull down shades.

Angela (Seattle, WA):

From my understanding, the flight attendants will not be the only people able to adjust the windows-it looks as if passengers will also have the ability to do so:

"Passengers onboard the 787 Dreamliner will be able to press a button on a controller like this to manage the amount of light streaming into the cabin."

This quote is taken from the photo caption:

Robert (Melbourne, Australia):

great windows, look forward to many flights on a innovative airplane!

Alan (San Bruno, CA):

I mostly worry about seeing too little or too much through the windows. I hope the windows darken enough for bright days above the clouds when it's mind-splittingly-bright outside, or like others noted when the sun is shining directly in. I also hope that the not-so-dark settings allow for the in-flight video and also looking outside when it's so bright out. I'm sure that's all being worked out, though, and I'm just itching to try it for myself!

I'll bet that after a the first year in service, Airbus and others will be clamoring to integrate this window-dimming thing.

After reading Cameron's note above, I also wonder about the durability of the system, but I'll have to leave that problem to Boeing and the airlines. Great update, Randy!

Sigit Ary (Indonesia):

Good idea Sir.. I wonder good idea sir..when can I fly with 787 :)

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

The electronic shade system saves on maintenance and some weight but you cannot have the window half shaded or two-thirds shaded so you can look outside without getting sunlight on the neighboring passengers face.

Al Tunstall (Charlotte, NC):

This is off topic, but in every picture of the 787, there appears to be a trailing appendate off the top of the tail. Looks like a small device attached by a wire (almost like a mini drag chute). Is this some kind of data device validating airspeed? Please advise.

James (Baltimore, MD, USA):

I like it. I'm the type of person who likes to see were the planet go bye, yet its not something everyone around me likes. Should work on a kit to retrofit existing planes.

Randy Tinseth:

@ Al,

Yes, exactly. The trailing cone provides an independent source of air data to validate airspeed.

Aaron (San Antonio, TX):

I had a chance to see these same windows in action on a new King Air 350i that my company was doing a demo of. The only downside to me is they are really slow to dim during those times when you bank the airplane and the sun comes shining in. In a commercial aspect, I have often sat at the window seat and pulled the blind down partially to block sun while keeping the bottom open to look out. I will be curious to see how the A350 windows do. They have installed the competing electronic dimming technology on some A380's in service and I was much more pleased with those on the Quantas A380 I was on. The window dims nearly instant while also having a full-blackout mode that these windows can't. I would imagine the glass electro-chromatic window from PPG is a little heavier than the plastic used by the competitor. Time will tell I guess!

TIm (Holyoke,MA,USA):

I think it is a good idea but I dont want people to be able to control my window. I enjoy looking out the window and dont want a FA to be able to just dim my window without asking.

bruce (Seattle, Wa, USA):

Not impressed. An answer to a question no one asked. I as well like to pull the shade down partway to reduce the sunlight, but still look out the lower part to see what is out there. The views of the ground, and sky when the sun is not shining in that side, are just wonderful, even at night. Have seen many interesting sights.

What if the attendants decide everyone WILL watch a movie and turn all the window dark? Will we have individual control to turn them clear again? I just hate it when an attendant comes by and pulls my shade all the way down when the movie starts. I also hate it when a person gets a window seat and then pulls it down to read or sleep for the entire flight.

Darrell J. Roberson (Everett, WA, USA):

Remember the DC-8 and its "huge" passenger windows. The last row actually had two windows close together. Kudos the the 787 for reviving big windows. The joy of flying IS the VIEW for the passengers.

Juliane (Houston TX USA):

The windows are frustrating as hell. We had them on both legs of a trip to the UK recently. My husband needs to see out of the plane and the dimming/color change is not in the passenger's control. It's up to the pilot or flight crew to do it, and when we had finished dinner, the windows actually got opaque black and he could see nothing. This is a real problem. When I fly by myself, I also like to see out the window. If the passenger cannot control the window shade, then having a window is an exercise in frustration. The flight attendants dimmed the lights on the whole plane as we started getting closer to Houston, in full daylight, but not in glaring sunlight. They get dark blue or aqua colored, so it's not as if you can see out when they are dimmed. I give it a HUGE thumbs down. I would rather not fly on the plane even though other than this it was very nice.

Alan Hall (Lincoln, UK):

Julianne of Texas must have had aircrew or cabin staff having a bad hair day on her flight.
I've just been to Peurto Vallarta, Mexico and back and only for landing and take off did the crew switch the windows to bright or open or whatever. The rest of the time the passengers had full control. Being an ex aircraft techie I though the system worked great and is very innovative. The huge windows are a very welcome change from trying to crouch down in the seat to see out or pressing your head against the trim to see around. Well done boing. Oh, and I met some of the people who helped to build the aircraft on holiday. Brill!!!

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