There is nothing new about the idea of stacked sleepers on aircraft. The Boeing Stratoliner, which boasted a near 12ft wide cabin, had plenty of room for sleeping berths. And that operated commercial flights back in the 1940s.
In the mid-1980s, first-class passengers on Philippine Airlines could sleep through overnight flights in upper-and lower-level bunk beds, notes Jennifer Coutts Clay in her "Jetliner Cabins" book.
What would be quite novel, however, is if airlines adopted stacked sleeper seats for today's economy-class passenger. A I "Indi" Rajasingham, head of MmilleniumM Group, believes the Bethesda, Maryland-based engineering firm has a solution. The company has designed a stacked seating approach for all segments, from economy-class to "super business", called the Air Sleeper that, in economy at least, uses every blessed inch of space.
I wrote about the product in my Flight festive feature, Sleep Surrender. But magazine space constraints - ahem - prevented me from running all the graphics. See below (with pics 2, 3 and 4, imagine yourself on the outside of the tube, looking in) and then read on.
I must admit that upon first viewing these graphics I was a tad concerned about the comfort factor. To be precise, I thought the contraption looked damned uncomfortable and questioned whether readers of Sleep Surrender wouldn't think the same.
Here's what Indi had to say about that: "What may not be apparent to readers is that anybody can get any design on paper and build mock-ups. Some may be prettier than others. But not all these are supported by the sound engineering needed to make them protect you under crash conditions for successful certification.
"We work from the bottom up. Engineering, biomechanics for safety, and ergonomics for comfort and convenience. We target certifiability in any position - a world first. Our technologies and novel architectures that make this possible, supported by pending and issued patents are our key strength. We serve all segments from economy to 'super business' without exception. While we take the aesthetics and ambiance seriously it is only the top layer that we may even outsource to best serve our customers."
It goes without saying, I suppose, that James Park Associates' (JPA's) stacked sleeper design, recently revealed on RWG, seemed a hell of a lot prettier. But that was tailored only and specifically for a business-class cabin, and not constrained by airlines' general edict for economy class - cram as many people into the back as humanly possible.
Indeed, Indi compares the two designs in the following chart (click on the file for a larger view and then read on):
At the Wings club luncheon yesterday I met former Air Canada chief engineer Ford Chown, now a consultant whose focus at this time is Aerospace Technologies Group's electromechanical window shades, which have been adopted for the Airbus A380 by Qantas
Chown is going to review the AirSleeper idea for me from a design requirement standpoint. Until then, he seeks to temper my new-found exuberance over cabin interiors with the following quote:
"In the 90's it seems that everyone was trying to upgrade aircraft cabins, business travel was booming and everyone was fighting for the flyers' business; they still are, but competitive fares have created belt tightening in the airline marketing world. The interiors of planes still need refurbishment and change will happen, maybe just not as fast. I think that aviation is a fascinating business and the aircraft interior offers such opportunity for initiative, it can be overwhelming."
Okay, with my chill pill swallowed, I think the big question is, as posed above, can we sleep together? Can the collective we really lie side-by-side, hands to ourselves, legs together, in perfect harmony? Will Sleep Surrender be sweet surrender or must economy-class passengers surrender to the fact that it's going to be more of the same?