Private Aviation: New Developments in Cabin Comfort

Cabin comfort can make all the difference in whether you reach your destination jet-lagged or rested and ready for action. Roomy leather seats and stand-up space in which to move around help reduce fatigue, but less obvious factors are pressurization, cabin air quality, ambient noise, vibration, and natural light. In the next-generation jets that offer extra-long globe-trotting range—up to 7,000 miles nonstop—cabin comfort becomes an even more critical consideration.

In most airline passenger cabins, even in first class, the air pressure is equivalent to about 6,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. At 8,000 feet, a passenger’s oxygen intake is reduced by about 4 percent—not enough to be harmful, but enough to cause a tired feeling, and the longer the trip, the more tired one feels. “Move up from a Gulfstream IV to a G650, or from Bombardier’s CL 600 to a Global 5000, or from a Falcon 900 to a Falcon 7X, and in all cases the pressurization differential improves by 10 percent or more, providing sea-level cabin pressure up to a much higher altitude,” says David Wyndham, an aviation analyst with Conklin & de Decker. When cruising at the highest altitudes, this lower cabin pressure greatly reduces fatigue on both passengers and crew, says Wyndham.

The G650, due to start deliveries in 2012 and priced at $59.5 million, can hold cabin pressure equivalent to 2,800 feet while cruising at up to 41,000 feet. At the aircraft’s maximum altitude of 51,000, the cabin pressure climbs only to 4,850 feet. “We’re constantly looking for ways to reduce cabin altitude to as close to sea level as possible,” says Robert Baugniet, a spokesman for Gulfstream. Next-generation engines provide the power and efficiency to create the increase in pressurization.

The SJ30, from Emivest Aerospace, is unique among light jets for its ability to hold sea-level pressure in the cabin up to 41,000 feet. The six-passenger jet can be flown by a single pilot, and sells for $8 million.

The latest engines also significantly reduce noise and vibration in the cabin. The Pratt & Whitney Canada engines that power the Falcon 7X employ advanced shock-management fan technologies to ensure low noise and vibration. The G650’s Rolls-Royce engines are more than four decibels quieter than earlier models. Gulfstream has also reduced the noise from its air distribution system for the G650 and continues to conduct acoustical research to find ways to make the cabin even quieter.

Natural light also is an important factor in cabin comfort. The Falcon 7X, which sells for $42.3 million, has 28 windows—40 percent greater window exposure than earlier models. The windows also are positioned higher in the fuselage, making it easier for passengers to see outside. The G650’s windows, at 28 inches by 20.5 inches, are the largest in the industry.

In a commercial airliner, cabin air is a filtered mixture of fresh air and recirculated air, and it’s extremely dry, which can cause dehydration and may make passengers more susceptible to airborne illnesses. The G650 cabin will have 100 percent fresh air every 90 seconds. The Falcon 7X offers an optional humidifier and HEPA bacteria filter.

It’s easy to sample seat comfort and legroom in a mock-up at ground level, but for long-distance flights at high altitudes, buyers should inquire about these more subtle environmental factors that can significantly battle fatigue and enhance productivity.

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Falcon 7X

Global 5000

Emivest Aerospace

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