Slender-body planes: The way forward for long-haul flying — but in addition its previous

(CNN) – For nearly half of the entire history of commercial aviation, long-haul flights have evoked images of large, two-aisle, widebody aircraft with up to 10 seats in each row, spacious overhead berths and, more recently, shiny aircraft. demand tablet-style entertainment systems.

This is in sharp contrast to smaller, narrow aircraft with their single aisles, six seats per row and generally less space and comfort.

Before the Boeing 747 began carrying passengers in 1970, narrow bodies were the standard for long-haul flights, although their definition of “long-haul flight” was not quite what we know today.

For example, the Boeing 707s, which you may remember from that “Pan Am” television show almost 10 years ago, hardly made it from London or Paris to New York without refueling, often at Gander in Newfoundland, although they were faster and were quieter than anything seen before.

A 1960 photo shows an American Airlines Boeing 707-120B in flight.


Outwardly, these jets are more like what we fly today – and will fly tomorrow – than you might think. Even the shape of the nose and the size of the fuselage of Boeing’s 737 aircraft, the world’s best-selling aircraft, are straight from the Boeing 707 from the 1950s.

While he “never had the opportunity to fly a 707,” the aircraft’s interior designer Ben Orson, managing director of Orson Associates, told CNN, “It is clear that the new generation of single-aisle aircraft will benefit from decades the interior optimization, which has led to significant improvements in terms of weight, environmental comfort factors – cabin pressure, lighting, etc. – space efficiency in seating, linings and containers as well as integration of toilets and kitchens. “

This is certainly a long and technical list, but it all means more space and more convenience for you as a passenger. And when the passenger experience has come a long way, so too have the airplanes – and their capabilities.

There are three aircraft of the latest generation of narrow body aircraft with the latest engines.

The first is the Airbus A220, formerly the Bombardier CSeries, the smallest of the lot.

The second is Boeing’s 737 MAX, an update to the venerable 737, though the low design means the engine size is limited compared to the others so it’s not really a long-haul machine.

But the third is the real player: the Airbus A321XLR, the youngest member of the A321neo family, an updated version of Airbus’ short-range workhorse with new internal fuel tanks.

The A321XLR can fly well into the early 707s and more than halfway: up to 4,700 nautical miles, or about 10 hours – something like the distance from Florida to the UK or Beijing to France.

It’s a fundamental shift that dates back to the beginning of the jet age in 1958, when the Boeing 707 first began to fly – over the oceans at near the speed of sound to refuel every four or five hours.

A model of the cabin of the new Boeing 707 Stratoliner, around 1957.

A model of the cabin of the new Boeing 707 Stratoliner, around 1957.

Underwood Archives / Archive Photos / Getty Images

In a way, traveling was very different back then

People have dressed up, regardless of whether they are flying in first class or on the bus. The luggage was checked into the hold as the overhead bins had not yet been invented. Instead there was the parcel shelf, a literal shelf above the heads of the passengers that was only intended for light items.

Today’s overhead containers are still a problem for passengers, and that’s what aircraft manufacturers are working on today.

“As soon as this is only possible with larger planes, a single-aisle long haul will open up a world of new routes with all the conveniences of long-haul cabin comfort,” said Antonio Da Costa, Airbus director of single aisle marketing, CNN. “The new airspace cabin of the A321XLR not only offers direct flights to the final destination of the passengers, but is also quieter and has a new airy design and larger hand luggage compartments that make it easier to get on and off.”

While today’s planes have high definition on-demand video and high-speed WiFi internet, in-flight entertainment has only been around since the 1960s. The now defunct TWA is the first to introduce films for everyone on board, which are projected onto screens in every section of the aircraft.

Individual headsets, which were pneumatic and literally hosed sound through the air to passengers’ ears, were brought on board in the same decade and lasted on older aircraft well into the early 2000s. A common sight at the time were children leaning their heads against the armrest to hear the crackle of audio coming from the sockets when their parents refused to pay to rent the headphones.

During a Lufthansa flight in 1967, cabin service on board an intercontinental Boeing 707 was elegant.

During a Lufthansa flight in 1967, cabin service on board an intercontinental Boeing 707 was elegant.

Fox Photos / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In first grade, the lifestyle of caviar, chateaubriand, and champagne was real. The airlines all went out with tuxedo-clad stewards and stewardesses gliding glamorously down the aisle in cocktail carts, entree carts, and rolling carving stations for massive roasts cut to order.Even in the economy, lavish TV dinner-style meals, if a little awful for us today, were on some sort of vintage menu, very à la mode.

But in other ways the experience was very noticeable

When yoga pants and neck pillows replaced gabardine suits and expensive hats, not too much has changed in the basic structure of the slim passenger experience.

Up front, passengers on a 707 would have sat down two sides of the aisle in large, squashy lounge chairs that, depending on the airline, would lean back a little or a lot.

That’s essentially what you see today, unless you’re on a long-haul-specific A321, 757, or 737 MAX that has switched from those loungers to convertible sleepers in the past decade – but usually still with two passes.

In the economy the configuration was the same as it is today: three seats on either side of the aisle. They were much thicker and a bit more padded than they are now, but modern industrial design tech is working hard to improve today’s seats.

Mark Hiller, Managing Director of Recaro Aircraft Seating, which manufactures both short and long-haul seats, explains: “By choosing the right products and features, the passenger experience on an A321XLR can be on par with any other body aircraft The given size of the fuselage enables a more spacious seating arrangement compared to other types of aircraft, and our RECARO seating solutions further improve this. “

This hull size point is another important point when thinking about today’s passenger experience compared to yesterday.

A computer rendering of the narrow body Airbus A321XLR

A computer rendering of the narrow body Airbus A321XLR


Boeing’s 737 is still essentially the same cross-section as the 707, but the Airbus A321’s fuselage is a bit bigger, meaning the seats can be an entire inch wider – 18 inches instead of 17 inches. At a time when people are simply taller and wider than they were 60-70 years ago, 18 inches is even wider than many long-haul airplane seats, and seat width is one of the most important factors in whether we think it’s comfortable or not.

As the 1950s and 1960s gave way to the 1970s and 1980s, more efficient aircraft replaced the original long-range narrow-body jets, including the narrow-body Boeing 757, which replaced today’s Airbus A321neo family itself.

The key to the history of these planes, however, is that their smaller size then and now means you can fly non-stop to more destinations, especially if you live in a place that isn’t a mega-hub like London, Atlanta or Dubai.

Even if you’re not convinced by the idea that long-haul narrow-body seats have the same seats as long-haul wide-body seats and can be just as comfortable, if not more comfortable, now you have a choice between a non-stop flight and several hours from your trip cut off – and that is a consolation in itself.

Above: The Boeing 707 Jet Stratoliner number one under construction at the Boeing Transport Division in Renton, Washington, around 1958. (Central Press / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

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