Can we sleep together?

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.

Airsleeper 6.JPG
Airsleeper 5.JPG
Airsleeper 4.JPG
Airsleeper 3.JPG
Airsleeper 2.JPG
Airsleeper 1.JPG

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):


Air Sleeper comparison table.JPG

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?    

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6 Responses to Can we sleep together?

  1. toby December 18, 2008 at 9:18 pm #

    I definitely wonder, which (current!) aircraft this could/should be based on. Particularily the claim concerning economy-class density is clearly NOT true as it can’t be achieved in this type of layout.
    Here’s something to think about:
    - an A380 has a max. width of 266″ on the main-deck with 10-abreast seating
    - aisle width is required to be 20″ minimum, which leaves a mere 226″ for beds as two aisles would be needed
    - therefore if you would want to install four beds (eight beds stacked) per row, these could only be 56.5″ long (1,43m), not considering any structure or housing. Now this seems short, doesn’t it?
    - if only three beds per row (six beds stacked) were to be installed, these could be up to 75,3″ (1,91 m) long.

    There’s another thing that seems to habe been neglected: due to the curvature of the sidewalls (even in the A380 MainDeck) the upper level beds would have to be even shorter than the lower ones.

    One more thing to note: a standard seat width of 18″ (45,72cm, current C/J-Class width) would imply that one row of beds would probably use a minimum of 22″ (55,88 cm, including structure). Using these dimensions and the Emirates A380-Layout as comparision, one could cramp a maximum of 362 beds (not considering cabin configuration issues or the non-constant sections in the front and back of the aircraft). Therefore the reduction in capacity would be greater than 10% (Emirates currently has 399 seats on the main deck with 32″ pitch).
    These numbers would be even worse for different aircraft. But any interior concept should be viable on all current and/or future aircraft without too many trade-offs.

    That sure doesn’t really support the claims made by Mr. “Indi”, does it?

    I really would like to see some more detailed renderings or drawings showing proposed dimensions, seat counts and technical details (they supposedly were patented, so they could be shown without risking their intellectual property).

  2. K December 19, 2008 at 1:28 am #

    OH boy. Here we go again. My few years(trying to make my self younger than I really am) of life have allowed me the opportunity to work with some of the most amazing designers in the world. As always design and reality conflict in the real world. All the seats revealed under RWG are amazing on paper— then the FAA and their regulations (which are extremely important) get involved. Doesn’t mean that it can’t be done… It does mean that it will take an airline with a lot of money and great gumption to bring it forward. Myself, I believe it can be done with the right team. However it is not an easy, short, or cheap road.


  3. Dave December 19, 2008 at 9:20 am #

    Absolutely brilliant !

    If the Air Sleeper works out it could change the way we think about air travel.

  4. Alan December 19, 2008 at 4:49 pm #

    Dr. Rajasingham’s claims are defensible.

    100% Economy density is possible. This could be an incredible addition to an Airline.

    Mr. Toby seems a little confused. Let me help with the math.

    Let’s use Toby’s numbers:

    A380 cabin width: 266″
    Aisle width: 20″ x 2
    Balance: 226″

    If 3 seats across each seat length: 226″/3 = that leaves 226″ for 3 beds each stacked 2 high – total of 6 (6’3.3″beds).
    Seat width 18″ + 1” (These could be high tech seats with proprietary space saving techniques for Economy and low overhead and not the grandfather variety! )

    To compare with EMIRATES CONFIGURATION using Toby’s numbers at pitch of 32″

    The scores are as follows:

    AirSleeper with flat beds in Economy: 6 seats at a pitch of 19″
    or 3.16″ average linear inches.

    Conventional seats in Economy: 10 seats at a pitch of 32″
    or 3.2″ average linear inches.

    You actually get MORE THAN 100% of the seats now possible with this case.


  5. Anonymouse September 8, 2009 at 5:58 am #

    From what I can tell from the drawings a person’s lower legs and feet would be dangling. Not sure since they don’t show a drawing of a person. I know when my legs dangle there is no sleeping and the blood circulation to lower legs and feet gets cutoff.

    Also, what about people who don’t sleep in one position? I know I’m not the only one who needs to curl up, rollover, etc. while I’m sleeping and not realizing I’m doing it. How many people will get injured from other people who tend to hit or kick in their sleep?

    I swear these designers just design the space aspect and not any other aspect.

  6. Ahmed Leventhal December 23, 2009 at 6:58 am #

    These types of cell phones are just about like new!