Airbus is to follow the lead of the Boeing 787 and offer electronic self-darkening windows on its A350 XWB family. The airframer has also developed a two-part software architecture that contains its in-flight entertainment system.

The European airframe maker's baseline XWB window offer has a mechanical shutter to keep out light and optional self-darkening electro-chromic panes.

A clip-on, clip-off oval-shaped bezel panel for each window enables Airbus and its customers to easily switch to self-darkening electro-chromic panes.

The bezel was originally created to enable rapid window changeovers in the event of a crack in the glass or other fault. Airbus makes the claim that the A350 windows will be the largest flying, but admits that the Gulfstream V's are wider.

The A350 windows could also be lit by a thin strip-light that runs the bezel's entire circumference.

"We will have electrically darkened windows [as an option]," says Robert Lange, Airbus's head of aircraft interiors marketing, customer affairs.

He is critical of Boeing's 787 electro-chromic system, saying that the power converter required at each window added weight, that the glass panes were more expensive and that the technology did not darken the cabin sufficiently.

With electro-chromic windows passengers darken or clear them using an electrical switch, a technology adopted by Boeing for its 787 and studied for its 747-8I passenger model.

Flight International has learned that one of the bidders for the A350 fuselage work is offering composite window frame manufacturing technology to enable large 787-like windows with features that facilitate power to glass panes.

The A350's software arrangement for its IFE and connectivity systems, based on the A380's, forms the second half of the two-part architecture. The two parts are a "core domain", for flight-critical systems, and the "extension domain" that includes the IFE.

Lange says that the two domains could "not be mixed" for data security. Access to the core from the extension domain could allow a passenger to spread viruses or hack flight systems from their seat.

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