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July 14, 2024
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The launch customer for the Boeing 787, All Nippon Airlines, has approached Boeing to fix an emerging problem with the electric dimming windows on the 787, which apparently are not dark enough for it’s passengers to sleep comfortably.  Those windows darken significantly, but are not fully opaque, and apparently the additional light entering the cabin is enough to make sleep more difficult on some flights, particularly when the angle of the rising or setting sun is aligned with the fuselage.

Of course, the large size of the windows makes them quite popular with passengers who like to look outside, but the size also brings in more light than smaller windows, requiring more effective shading.  I find the large windows quite attractive, as I typically tend to look outside at several points during a flight.

Ryosei Nomura at ANA stated “for our passengers to have good sleep, we realized that it is important to offer appropriate darkness during flights, especially for long haul.”  ANA is now considering installing traditional pull down blinds over the electric windows if Boeing can’t come up with a solution to darken them.

Boeing declined to comment on the issue, citing the proprietary nature of discussions with customers, but indicated that customer response to the larger dimmable windows has been favorable.  Airbus has included traditional shades on the A350XWB, citing the lack of opacity on the 787 windows as the reason for using “conventional” technology on their new aircraft.

ANA remains extremely happy with the 787 and currently has 7 aircraft in service.  Apart from the windows they appear to love the airplane.

Bottom line: We’re betting Boeing and its supplier PPG will find a way to crank up the darkness a bit more in the near future.  For now, make certain that you wear a sleep mask and rest easy, as the 787 is apparently a vampire free airplane.

18 thoughts on “Vampires Beware – Electric Window Shades on the 787 Aren’t Dark Enough!

  1. I flew the 787 and agree that at altitude in direct sun too much light comes in. (And it takes a very long time to dim.) As for a solution, apparently there’s an electronic tinting window that goes completely dark and switches instantly. A friend at Cessna told me about it and sent me this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWUnmq9nFgk Perhaps Boeing/ANA will use these.

  2. This will be another costly error (although this was known from day one of the design).
    The fix is not an easy one, either change the photochromic material or add shades

  3. It might not be an easy fix, but it’s also not an important one. We’re talking incorporating a design change in the future (maybe, I would note that no one at JAL has complained), no retrofit will come out of this.

  4. If its a problem, it will cmoe after you. Probably ignored so far because other issues were overriding sofar. JAL probably had a wait and see attitude sofar & will now put up its finger. As will all the other customers. I hope the electric dimming is lighter and cheaper than conventional pull down blinds. Hopefully not a technological driven gadget..

  5. Ouch, this is a hard problem to solve. These types of electric windows have never been 100% opaque. The best they can do is usually to make the window darker by default itself, then the dimmed setting will be that much darker. It also means that the undimmed state will be less transparent…

  6. Hi Robert – the problem has been solved and is in use on aircraft other than the 787. It is not true that no dimmable window can go opaque. A dimmable window using a different technology does go opaque (and also dims instantly) and the undimmed state maintains full transparency. See the video I posted earlier on this thread. Boeing and its customers need not compromise.

  7. They should do the same survey on a new 767/ 777.

    Results probably would be 86% of the passengers thinks the pull down shading is just fine. Same seats / service and everything gets complicated..

    These are 90% Japanese that are respectfull and avoid embarrasing their hosts.

    Take care folks, these surveys are marketing favourites. Only read them if you want your opinions to be confirmed. ( don’t we all..)

  8. “In surveys, satisfaction scores on the A380 have been higher than Qantas has seen for any airplane in its history.”

    It’s the biggest, it’s the most quiet, and king of the skies. Whilst “these surveys are marketing favourites. Only read them if you want your opinions to be confirmed. ( don’t we all..)”

    Now, the “TurboLiner” or “ECR-20” have “roof windows,” and “-20% side windows,” a la the “TurboLiner” or “ECR-20.” Who’s turn is it to close those shades? Je ne sais pas. Participez à une enquête!!

  9. JuanM, that video is a little deceiving. The only two transitions they actually demonstrate are 1. inside of a hanger and 2. with a bright light source. Even with SPD technology blocking 99.4% of the light, direct sun with 100,000 lux is still going to be brighter than a thick sheet of plastic.

  10. Thank you for the points you made. I agree videos and photos can be deceiving. But I did see on the video that 99.96% of light (not 99.4%) is blocked. That sounds like a lot to me. Question: do you know how much light a shade blocks? Thanks!

  11. JAL’s public response has been “we have no problem with the window shades” or some such.

  12. It’s a complicated question, since increasing glass thickness can increase opacity, but at the expense of weight and transition time. It is possible to also increase opacity by starting from a less than fully transparent state (such as tinting the actual glass), but I don’t know if there are FAA rules on maximum tinting when the shades are “open.”

    99.96% is quite a lot, but it’s hard to know how this is being measured. The light is being absorbed by a chemical so of course the amount of absorption as a function of wavelength is non linear (i.e., not all wavelengths are blocked equally well), as you may have noticed when in a intermediate transition state — it is not a neutral gray darkening.

  13. Luminous Transmittance of stretched acrylic is commonly measured by ASTM-D-1003 standards.

    Even though electrochromic windows do block more light than the typical pull-down shades (which leave a bright ring around the sides or bottom), they don’t appear to get as dark because of the translucence of the material.

    There are electochromic shades that get much darker quicker, but there are drawbacks to any design. When not powered, many return to a normal state of dark, which is unacceptable to many operators. It’s still a relatively new technology for aviation applications and will take some time to iron out. Their choice for supplier likely had to do with how long ago their development started. There probably weren’t as many choices 5-8 years ago.

    As far as the FAA regs go, there is not a reg for tinting of windows, but rather a general regulation that states that pilot visibility must not be hindered (25.773). There are also operation regs that require that the flight crew have clear visibility in certain situations. The FAA regs are all public and online. If you browse by part #, commercial aircraft operate under Part 25 for transport category, while most business/private aircraft operate under Part 23 for normal or commuter category.
    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title14/14tab_02.tpl

  14. recently flew JAL 787 and agree that these new dimming windows are awful.
    what was wrong with the old shade?
    mind you I’m a big fan of technology and always love trying the latest gadget, which is why i’m particularly annoyed with bad technology. It should make life better, not worse. Not only does the window not dim, but you have to click the button a few times to get the settings to its “darkest” setting (and I say “darkest” in quotes, as it’s nowhere near dark enough). Pulling down the shade took one simple hand move. This requires complex user interface. Horrible design all over.

  15. Does the window provide any UV protection? Just flew SFO KIX and had the sun on my face the entire trip. Window got very warm….actually hot at one point. At 38000 ft that’s quite a it of dangerous UV unless their is some protection. Any one have any actual I info. As a survivor of melanoma I’m very conscious of the effect of UV Rays.

  16. I have very light sensitive eyes which causes me a lot of dIscomfort with bright light. I can wear sunglasses when driving or outdoors put using them in flight is weird. Also it would suck for people with chronic migraines who are triggered by medium to bright light. From the pictures thiugh the shading seems okay. I hope to fly on the 787 soon.

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