Traveler's Recital

Boeing 787: The Air that You Breathe

There has been a lot written about the new Boeing Dreamliner (787). While the high tech carbon fiber construction, production delays, and problems with the lithium-ion batteries have been getting all the news, this plane actually has some features that benefit your health and comfort.

Anyone that flies much is aware that the air in a jetliner is dry…very dry. In fact, the humidity is typically between 3 and 5%.  This leads to rapid dehydration and the drying of the nose and throat. The moisture in our nose and throat is the first line of defense against airborne infections. Take that away and you are more susceptible to respiratory infections. There is a reason that we often get sick after that 8-hour flight returning from vacation. Another difference in the air is the air pressure. The Dreamliner is expected to run about 12%. On board most airlines the air pressure is equivalent to an altitude of 8000 feet. Most of us don’t notice it when we are just sitting around, but if you run up and down the aisle a couple times you would quickly be out of breath. That low air pressure is also partially responsible for that wiped out feeling you have after very long flights. It forces your pulse rate higher. Next time you are on a plane, check your pulse. Even just sitting in your seat it will be elevated as your body tries to deal with the lower air pressure. The air pressure on the 787 is maintained at about 6000 feet.  Still higher than most of us are used to, but not nearly as bad.

A side benefit of the higher air pressure in the 787 is that the air is recycled more frequently and therefore filtered more frequently. There is also a new gas filter that removes odors more effectively than the standard high-efficiency particulate filters which make up the only filters on most planes.

This article is mainly about the air, but there are other advantages to the Dreamliner: 60% less noise, much larger windows…that you can actually dim, and on longer flights, the lighting inside actually simulates the passage of the day with varying color and brightness. No more of the simple off after takeoff and back on before landing.

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