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Terminal Velocity

350 People, 8 Hours: Airbus Tests How Not To Make Passengers Go Nuts

Plush they're not (Oh, are you in first class?), but airline cabins hold up to a rigorous seat-by-seat testing process.

  • <p>This is how Airbus is testing their new flagship jet. Estimated to be a $15 billion project, it comes down to the details of user comfort.</p>
  • <p>Water-filled tubes are placed on every seat and set to various temperatures.</p>
  • <p>They simulate the range of human body heat.</p>
  • <p>Then engineers gather ambient temperature data down to the seat level.</p>
  • <p>Planes may not feel all that comfortable to you, but when you see testing like this, you realize they could feel a whole lot worse.</p>
  • 01 /05

    This is how Airbus is testing their new flagship jet. Estimated to be a $15 billion project, it comes down to the details of user comfort.

  • 02 /05

    Water-filled tubes are placed on every seat and set to various temperatures.

  • 03 /05

    They simulate the range of human body heat.

  • 04 /05

    Then engineers gather ambient temperature data down to the seat level.

  • 05 /05

    Planes may not feel all that comfortable to you, but when you see testing like this, you realize they could feel a whole lot worse.

It might not always feel like it, but airline-cabin comfort is an arduously designed and tested experience. Every detail matters. It’s why Lufthansa spent five years designing their new business class cabin, and it’s why Virgin Atlantic’s flight attendants spend a day training to whisper quietly to passengers in first class.

There's an art to cramming bodies into a tight, highly controlled space in which you are barely allowed to move. Airbus has generously shared some of their testing methodology. The photo above is of their upcoming A350 XWB—Airbus's response to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner—being put through the paces to ensure (at least some minimal level of) user comfort.

To simulate the ambient temperature of a full plane, engineers installed plastic tubes filled with water into each of these seats. The tubes are carefully heated at a range of temperatures that simulate the general thermal range of humanity, and a test crew uses a fleet of sensors and monitors to measure how the environment holds up, seat by seat.

Now if only Airbus tests a scenario in which one sweaty water tube lifts its armrest to flood its way into another water tube’s seat, we’ll have the perfect measure for testing the inner rage of seats.

See more here.

[Hat tip: Engadget]