Boeing’s Sky Interior Debuts with FlyDubai

 - November 12, 2010, 9:01 AM
FlyDubai COO Kenneth Giles accepted delivery of the first Boeing 737NG equipped with the manufacturer’s new Sky Interior. (Photo: Matt Thurber)
Boeing delivered the first 737NG with the new Sky Interior cabin to FlyDubai on October 27. It was the airline’s 10th 737NG of a firm order for 50.

“You call this an aircraft, and it is, but we call it a workhorse,” said FlyDubai COO Kenneth Giles during a delivery ceremony in Seattle. “When you walk inside this aircraft, you’ll see a new interior. I don’t know how you did it, but it looks like you made the fuselage bigger.”

While some of the changes to the cabin are subtle, passengers will certainly appreciate the newly designed pivot bin for overhead storage. Boeing began offering the big bin option in 2002, which boosted the capacity for standard IATA-sized bags (9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches) to 86. The pivot bins take advantage of unused space in the upper fuselage and can squeeze another four standard bags in the overhead storage, while taking up less space in the center of the cabin. Designers also moved the inboard edges of the bins inward two inches, opening the center of the cabin and making it feel more spacious.

Flight attendants will appreciate the pivot bins, too, because they feature a special handle that when deployed engages a cam that changes the pivot point and makes heavily loaded bins easier to close. A redesign of the passenger service unit (PSU) moved the call button farther away from the light switches, which should help prevent accidental call-button pushing–another bonus for flight attendants. New overhead LED lights should last 10 times longer than halogen bulbs (40,000 hours versus 4,000 hours), and a redesign of the PSUs makes them easier to reach for 5th percentile females.

Sky Interior windows look larger but remain the same size, due to a redesign of the inner window reveals. Boeing borrowed the color LED ceiling lighting and sidewall wash directly from the 787. The system features eight predefined lighting scenes controlled from the flight attendant touchscreen control panel.

The development of the Sky Interior started with a huge research project, employing a psychologist and a cultural anthropologist, explained Kent Craver, Boeing regional director of passenger satisfaction and revenue. “Nobody chooses to sit on an airplane for 10 hours,” he said. “That bothered us. The psychologist told us, ‘We need to treat boredom in a new way.’”

In the course of its research, Boeing discovered a universal yearning across almost every culture, what Craver called “this one universally appealing event: flight. People are fascinated with flight, but we really don’t like flying today. We wanted to somehow use the airplane to reconnect people to this magic and wonder of flight.”

What happens before the passenger gets to the airplane has become a major stumbling block, however. “By the time people get to our product,” Craver explained, “they’re in the middle of one of the worst days they’ve had in their year.”

While Boeing can do little to influence onerous security and airport processes, the psychologist pointed out that it could create “a psychological separation between events on the ground and the event of flight.”

Humans naturally put aside bad experiences when they feel welcome during their next experience. “We wanted to use the airplane to create this welcoming environment,” Craver said, “and we wanted to use the architecture of the airplane to create the welcome.”