Friday, March 5, 2010

Open Letter To The Aviation Industry:

Dear aviation executives,
I just came back from a 2 day business trip.  Had total of 4 flights through a connection in Philadelphia.  And after having done that for the Nth time I just couldn't take it any more.


It's confusing.  Last I checked it was year 2010. Back a few short decades ago when someone talked about 2010's they imagined hovercrafts and everyone in a silver suit of some sort.  Well, I just flew on US Airways, a major international airline, with regional services to Erie PA and gazillion of other small towns accross the country, on a De Havilland Canada Dash 8, a very common regional plane.  Though not the first time, I now felt like I was thrown back in a time machine to 1954, with engines roaring a deep shattering bass roar the entire time it took to get there.

Besides the plane being small to begin with, US Air, just like most airlines in the world, crams as many seats per plane as they can, despite the push for more legroom that started with AA I believe back about 20 years ago.  Apart from the debilitating engine noise where I could barely hear any music through my sound-isolating headphones, and screwed up air conditioning that made the interior way too warm for comfort, by far the worst part of the experience was the seats.  Not only are these seats criminally small, they appear to be purposefully designed to be the worst, most uncomfortable, and anti-ergonomic seats for any trip, let alone a long airplane one.  (And I'm about 5' 7", slim/average buid, no worries about ever buying 2 tickets for being too large)

Forget the fact that I'm a professional designer - no, as a regular normal human being who thinks a plane ride should not be used an "enhanced interrogation technique", here's my few simple questions to US Airways and the rest of the airlines and aviation equipment companies:

- This being 2010, and with immence history and knowledge of human factors, anthropometrics, ergonomics, and what makes a proper supportive comfortable seating, what possible explanation or excuse do you have for manufacturing and using seats, from regional turbo-props to coach class in a B-767, that SIMPLY DO NOT support lumbar, push your neck forward, and cause pain to your paying customers?

- Again it being 2010, not 1920's, or 1960's, dear executives of world airlines, what possibly makes you think that it is perfectly ok to be offering war-time antiquated aviation technology to transport passengers today?  Other than "well we have those planes and we've got to use them" or "grin and bear it"?  Whatever happened to investment in innovation?  Whatever happened to passenger comfort?  Whatever happened to the idea that it might just be that most people prefer to spend long hours of travel in peace, quiet, and comfort, and not be subjected to non-stop head-pounding propeller engine noise?

- While most of the flight comfort improvement efforts seem to go into added entertainment options, and occasional increased legroom, have any of the aviation executives, engineers, or designers ever thought about fundamentally re-designing airplanes to be turbulence-resistant, or even turbulence-proof?  As opposed to seatbelt warnings and apologies from the flight deck?  How about intelligent systems that know exactly where, how far, and how strong the cross-winds are, modify planes' geometry, materials, or behavior to accomodate to the environment and make the flight truly smooth and safe?

Can all of you aviation industry executives just ask yourself - would you like to fly your own airline, in coach class, day after day, vs. your private corporate jets?  With space-age technology available today, are you making one single effort to make air travel something people could actually look forward to, not a necessary evil?  Both for the airline industry and the government, how is it the norm, and perfectly acceptable to not only put up with crazy tarmac delays and lost baggage, but to need chiropractic services after a flight in a coach class?  I think you get the point, and I really hope you do - when you actually get the idea that air travel experience should be thoughtfully and carefully designed in every detail to make it actually enjoyable.

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