Broken Glass

Update: June 8, 2018

I ALWAYS ASK for a window seat. Maybe I should rethink this, judging from recent events?

On April 17th, a passenger on a Southwest Airlines 737 was killed after being partially ejected through a blown-out cabin window. Two weeks later, the window on another Southwest 737 cracked during flight, causing the crew to make a precautionary landing in Cleveland. Two weeks after that, one of the cockpit windscreens on an Airbus A319 operated by China’s Sichuan Airlines separated during flight, sucking the first officer part-way through the breach.

The first incident resulted from an uncontained engine failure. Parts from the left engine cowling struck the fuselage. The other two appear to be spontaneous failures from a cause yet unknown: fatigue, improper installation or repair, or who knows what. The investigations are ongoing. In the second case, the window cracked but did not fail. The jet remained pressurized and nobody was hurt. The Sichuan Airlines pilot suffered only minor injuries.

So, you’re thinking, three window-related emergencies in two weeks, doesn’t that have to mean something?

The answer is no, not really. These incidents are what they are, in and of themselves, and don’t have much to do with one other. It’s coincidence. And, when you have fifty thousand or so commercial flights taking off and landing every day of the week, weird things are sometimes going to happen. The fatality aboard Southwest flight 1380 was certainly tragic, and the other two incidents could have been a lot worse, but we should consider ourselves fortunate to be talking about broken windows and not the types of catastrophes we used to see five, ten, or a dozen times every year, with hundreds of people killed at a time.

Statistically, flying is safer than ever. Yet the ubiquity of today’s media, spread across multiple platforms, means that even small mishaps have a way of becoming huge stories.

One small caveat is that if any airline needs to pay extra close attention to wear and tear on its aircraft and their components, it’s probably Southwest. The carrier’s 737s fly primarily short haul routes, and on average they perform more takeoffs and landings — or “cycles” as they’re called in the business — than the 737s at most other airlines. High-cycle planes endure more stress. Southwest realizes this, of course. Its maintenance programs are structured accordingly, and what happened in April may have nothing to do with the number of cycles on those planes.



The interior frames around cabin windows will sometimes come loose. I once had the entire frame fall from the sidewall onto my lap. If this happens, don’t panic. Those frames are purely superficial. Calmly summon a flight attendant and show him or her the problem. The frame will be written up and repaired at the next airport.

One reason an airplane’s cabin windows are small, and round, is to better withstand and disperse the forces of pressurization. (The portholes of Concorde, you may have noticed, were quite tiny. Cruising at 60,000 feet, well above most civil transports, they were subject to an unusually high inside-outside pressure differential.) Additionally their size and shape are best to assimilate the bending and flexing of a fuselage in flight. For the same reasons, the windows are normally installed along the flattest portion of a fuselage. This is why they’re sometimes aligned in a less-than-optimum viewing position.

Cockpit windscreens, meanwhile, are astonishingly strong. I once saw a video demonstration of one being repeatedly struck full-force with a sledgehammer, barely budging with each blow. The glass is multi-paned, bank-teller thick, and bolstered by high-strength frames, resilient against the forces of pressurization, hail, and the occasional bird strike. For added guard against the latter, they’re heated to increase flexibility.

That hardly matters, of course, if they’re installed wrong. What happened the other day aboard Sichuan Airlines was, in fact, the second such incident that I’m aware of. In 1990, the captain of a British Airways BAC One-Eleven was nearly killed when a portion of the cockpit glass gave way.

Passengers are asked to raise their window shades for takeoff and landing. This makes it easier for the flight attendants to assess any exterior hazards — fire, debris, etc. — that might interfere with an emergency evacuation. It also helps you remain oriented if there’s a sudden impact, rolling, or tumbling. (Dimming the cabin lights is part of the same strategy.) This rule isn’t always enforced, and more and more I see passengers slamming down their shades the moment they take their seats, and leaving them like that for the entire flight. Something about this really bothers me — not the safety aspects so much as the person’s complete lack of curiosity about what’s going on outside. There’s something downright hostile about it.

When I’m at work, my office, so to speak, always comes with a view. Even when riding as a passenger, however, I prefer a window to an aisle. At least to me, there’s something instinctively comforting about sitting at the window — a desire for orientation. Which way am I going? Has the sun risen or set yet? For us lovers of air travel, of course, there’s a romantic aspect to it as well. What I observe through the glass extends beyond the planeride to the journey in whole — no less a sensory moment, potentially, than what I might experience sightseeing later on. Flying to Istanbul, I remember the sight of the ship-clogged Bosporus from 10,000 feet as vividly as standing before the city’s famous mosques or the Hagia Sofia. My first airplane ride — an American Airlines 727 — was a hop from Boston to Washington in the spring of 1974. What I remember most clearly, even more than the double servings of sandwiches and cheesecake, was the view: Manhattan from 30,000 feet; the snaky brown marshlands of Chesapeake Bay; the landmarks of D.C. as we banked along the Potomac.

To recycle one of my favorite air travel tidbits: Look closely at the exterior of an Air India jet and you’ll notice how each cabin window is meticulously outlined with the little Taj Mahalian arch. This is one of those instances where aviation transcends mere transportation and pays its respects to the greater realms of history, culture, tradition — whatever you might call it.

The old Caravelle, a French-built jetliner of the 1960s, had triangular windows; still rounded at the corners, but distinctly three-sided. The Douglas DC-8 was another exception. Not only were its windows squared-off, but uniquely oversized, with almost twice the glass of your standard Boeing or Airbus. I recall flying a DC-8 to Jamaica in 1982, and marveling at the TV-sized view of towering gray storm clouds.

On a typical wide body jet, only maybe a third of all passengers will be lucky enough, if indeed that’s the operative word, to be stationed at a window. In a nine-abreast block, only two of the seats come with a view. If flying has lost the ability to touch our hearts and minds, perhaps that’s why: there’s nothing to see anymore. Boeing, for its part, seems to have rediscovered the fact that some of us relish looking outside. The windows on the 787, you might notice, are about thirty percent bigger than usual.

At the other extreme, Emirates president Tim Clark recently stated that it’s only a matter of time before the windowless airplane is here. Clark points out that a fuselage sans portholes wouldn’t need as much structural support, and could be built with lighter materials. Virtual windows, augmented with camera views, could take their place. How much of this is a genuinely practical idea versus yet another example of our infatuation with technology and a need to distance ourselves from reality, I can’t say.

At the other extreme, Emirates president Tim Clark recently stated that it’s only a matter of time before the windowless airplane is here. Clark points out that a fuselage sans portholes wouldn’t need as much structural support, and could be built with lighter materials. Virtual windows, augmented with camera views, would meanwhile take their place. Sir Timothy has a lot of pull in this business, now that his company is the largest international carrier on earth. If we wants a windowless Boeing or a windowless Airbus, he just might get one. Still, how much of this is a genuinely practical idea versus yet another example of our infatuation with technology and a desire to distance ourselves from reality, I can’t say.

Author’s photo.

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71 Responses to “Broken Glass”
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  1. Dave Huffman says:

    Is there an etiquette protocol concerning who “controls” the window shade? Sometimes I’ve been in an aisle seat and the window seat passenger chooses to close the shade, which even from the aisle,I like to have open. Yet he/she might be more inconvenienced than me with glare or whatever and I understand that also. Is it actually airline policy anywhere that the window seat passenger has preference over the shade position – or not? Maybe it’s a trivial question, but I’m curious nonetheless.

  2. James says:

    As a very frequent flier, I am often seated next to folks who work with or supply the airlines with parts or services. Quite a while ago, when NW Airlines still flew DC-10s to Europe, I was seated next to a man who supplied the major manufacturers of planes with window glass. He pointed out that the windows on the DC-10 were (at that time) the largest of any commercial airliner. He also mentioned that in subsequent designs, the windows were made smaller, largely because those in the DC-10 could easily allow even a very large person to be sucked out in the event of failure. I continue to love window seats, but I always chose aisle seats in my later DC-10 flights. I have subsequently noticed that the new 787 windows are very similar in size to the earlier DC-10 windows, but since I fly Delta overseas almost exclusively, I have not had a chance to sit up close and compare…..

  3. Ben says:

    Speaking of the 787 and windows, the 787 also has a window in one or some the lavatories.

  4. Reenie says:

    I flew from Paris to Chicago during the day on a 787 (I believe?) Newer aircraft for sure. I was up front and everyone, I mean everyone, had their windows blacked out. It was infuriating. The only sun in the cabin was through the little window in the aircraft door. I finally got up and stood in this little patch of sun for a few minutes just to feel human again. Why would you – especially during daylight hours – not want to see what is going on out there? Being in the dark, during the day was disorienting and unsettling – for 7 hours.

    • France Davis says:

      I have had both passengers and stewardesses ask me to close my window shade during flight. Reasons given were “I’m watching a movie and the light is bothering me” or “passengers are trying to sleep and the light is bothering them (this one on a daylight flight). My response is usually a polite “I reserved a window seat so I could look out”.

  5. Doug says:

    I just read an article wherein the president of Emirates Airline predicts that windowless large planes will become a reality. Evidently, the traditional windows on some first class suites on Emirates planes have already been substituted for live camera feeds beamed onto high-def screens. Was very surprised to read that a windowless fuselage would reduce a plane’s weight by half since composites could be utilized that don’t have to support windows. Resulting planes will fly higher, faster and farther. Good news for the industry and frequent fliers but with little or no amenities afforded while flying, at least the view was free. Sadly, that’s progress.

  6. Rfa Renthlei says:

    Given the small size and often little worth seeing, wouldn’t planes be better off without passenger windows? Frankly, I’d rather lower the risk of explosive decompression and see the view from a well placed camera on my monitor.

  7. William Imbergamo says:

    It has been a long time since I was asked to leave the window shades up as part of any safety briefing or in-flight announcement. I don’t think its part of United’s safety briefing anymore (or my tune out skills have peaked recently). Either way — I’m at least a monthly flier on United and every other month on JetBlue, and I’ve not seen it enforced in the last 2 years. Out of courtesy, I leave the shade down until we’re well into our taxi, just to keep it cooler on the plane. I open the shade for takeoff and until the landscape becomes indistinct or obscured by clouds. After that I close them to reduce glare so passengers who need to work can do so easily.

    • Andrea says:

      I just flew American from Boston to Honolulu via LAX and there was also no announcement about having the window shades up for takeoff and landing…most people had them down and I must say it was very unnerving to not be able to see anything that was happening outside (I was in the aisle seat, which I prefer for the freedom to get up at will, but still appreciate being able to see out). Especially on approach back to Boston when we hit some significant turbulence (the kind with big drops…would have been nice to see how far above the ground we still were). I wonder why they have gotten rid of that rule.

  8. frank says:

    You gotta mention the cockpit windows that were sandblasted during a volcanic event… I think it was a transatlantic flight and the crew had to land in the Azores about 20 years ago? the engines also took quite a beating if I remember right.

    • Simon says:

      In 1982 actually. British Airways flight 9. KLM had a similar incident in 1989. KLM flight 867.

    • Rod says:

      The Azores event (August 2001) was the Air Transat world airliner-gliding record after fuel starvation over the Atlantic.

  9. Terry says:

    I love the window seat (I like to take pictures out the window if I’m bored or see something interesting), but will happily switch seats if there’s a little kid in my row who clearly wants it. One thing that never fails to impress them is my ability to ‘predict’ the moment of touchdown just from watching the runway.

    The last flight I took out of DFW, the shades were all shut upon boarding and the self-important guy in the middle seat (who was emailing/texting for the whole flight, even during takeoff and landing) glared at me every time I tried to open it so I didn’t get to see anything until descent.

  10. sanya says:

    Passengers are asked to raise their window shades for takeoff and landing. This makes it easier for the flight attendants to assess any exterior hazards like fire, debris, etc. that might interfere with an emergency evacuation and it always seemed like its a matter of that passengers should not feel sick while take off and landing.

  11. Alan says:

    I’m glad to see that I am not the only one that has noticed this. The last 3-4 flights I took I was in aisle seats and for some reason all the window seat passengers snapped the shades shut as if they were offended by something out there. The whole flight I had nothing to look at but whatever I brought with me.

    This seems to be a recent thing. Patrick put words to it that I hadn’t thought of — it does seem almost hostile.

    I do note that in hot weather some airlines ask for the shades to be down at the gate to reduce A/C load. That might be part of it.

    But in fact I think the real reason is everyone is totally absorbed in their hand-held LCD devices where are easier to see when the light is lowered. Also the airlines now allow their use for almost all phases of flight. There is almost nobody on a flight anymore that isn’t spending most of it staring at their little screens. What have we become.

  12. Ben says:

    I have always loved the window seat when flying, but only when flying over land most to all the way. When I know I will be flying over water pretty much the entire trip, I don’t have much of a preference for a window or isle seat.

  13. Stevo says:

    I always get a window seat. Relaxing against the bulkhead, I can zone out for hours looking out of the window. (I also do this on trains.) There’s something so thrilling about seeing the English countryside at dawn, the Mediterranean at any time, the NYC skyline, icebergs in April, the Giant’s Causeway, the Grand Canyon, aqua blue waters around the Bahamas during a loop around a huge thunderstorm over Ft. Lauderdale, and yes – I’ve seen my backyard, too. To me, not having a window seat is like riding in the trunk of a car.

  14. Art Knight says:

    Hi Rod,

    I didn’t know that they were frozen. That’s harsh! Bird strikes are discussed on the thread here called something like “Thoughts on the film SCULLY.”

    • Rod says:

      That’s what I’ve heard. I’m not sure about the physics involved in the impact — whether it would make a difference — but I think it would be a whole lot easier to aim and accelerate the object.

      • Bruce says:

        The chickens are purchased frozen, but they’re defrosted before they’re fired at a windscreen. If you left them frozen, you’d be as well just firing a big rock at the screen; defrosted chickens are used because the consistency and weight are similar to a genuine bird strike.

        They used to have a facility for this at British Aerospace in Preston: it was used for testing Tornados, Eurofighters and other military aircraft. They lent the facility to a railway rolling-stock company so they could test the windscreen of the then-new 125 “high speed” trains. The windscreen failed every test they did: the bird would just go straight through the glass, no matter how much they toughened the glass. The train engineers told the plane engineers what was happening, and the plane engineers couldn’t understand it: the train was dealing with lower speeds and high-quality glass. They came along to watch the test, and then gave the train engineers the solution: they needed to defrost the chickens.

  15. Rod says:

    Among other things, apparently, cockpit-window designs are tested by having frozen chickens fired at them at real-bird-strike speeds. The device used is known as a “rooster-booster”.

  16. John says:

    This incident has provided another “best of the best” article about a military trained pilot, implying the myth that military trained pilots are better equipped to handle emergencies than civilian trained ones:

    • Art Knight says:

      Hi John, I’ve known several folks who were in the Navy, Air Force and Marines and they tell me the training is impeccable. Private firms must skimp on training due to small budgets and high-turnover. My cousin’s husband is a United pilot, he flew the relatively big F-14. He credits his military training for his success. I think it is like anything else. You can pay a personal trainer to whip you into shape, you can pay a music teacher to force you to practice guitar, but in the end, you get out of it what you put into it. I was a much better guitar player when I was in a band. I had stress, pressure to learn songs and not suck. Now, I’m casual. No matter how much we want something, it always helps to have motivation. The military provides that. That is why they are preferred.

      • Art Knight says:

        Having said that, a dedicated, self-motivated person is probably better equipped, but less common.

      • John says:

        Military pilots re taught to fly military aircraft. Civilians are taught to fly civilian aircraft. They both can fly and handle an emergency to the same standard. There are numerous examples of civilian trained only crews landing airliners in emergency situations successful that don’t get followed by news stories claiming the outcome was due to their “great civilian training”.
        Civilian training doesn’t skimp on anything, they are given the same training in cabin depressurisations and forward window failures that occurred in this incident.
        Why do you suggest some civilian pilots are not motivated, but all military pilots are? To get to airline level I think a civilian pilot would have to be quite motivated?
        Military pilots are only preferred in the US because you have such a large military to draw on (20 times more spent on it than the next 20 countries combined). This means airlines there don’t really need to think about how they’ll employ those pilots. In the rest of the world most airlines take pilots who are trained specifically to fly for airlines through ab initio programs and they do just fine.
        Those pilots have saved the day on numerous occasions. For example the British Airways BAC111 that suffered a window blowout which resulted in the Captain being partially sucked out of the flight deck, had a pilot who saved the day from a civilian background. Shall we credit his civilian training for the successful outcome of that incident? Yes.

  17. Matthew Barich says:

    In the Mayday episode on American Airlines Flight 191, they show how that plane had a video screen that showed passengers a forward view.

    It showed passengers a forward view as the plane crashed.

    After that incident, the screens were removed from planes.

    • Art Knight says:

      I didn’t know that. I was a little kid when it happened. I remember seeing a massive amount of black smoke walking home from school. The engine was supposed to be removed and then the pylon. They were supposed to use the cradle. The maintenance mechanics took shortcuts. Used a forklift that drops inches at time. Removed the entire assembly at once. Employees reported that it sounded like a gunshot when they were working on it, but they let it go back into service. The pylon ripped off just as it was at full thrust and rotating leaving the runway. It ripped out the hydraulics and the flaps retracted. It took over 30 years to get a memorial in the park. I’ve been to the crash site by Oasis Trailer Park a few times. It is still eerie.

    • Art Knight says:

      I don’t think the 271 souls on board needed a TV to know that they were crashing. The aircraft banked and rolled to 112 degrees. That is, it was inverted by the time it cartwheeled into the Earth. Seems a silly reason to remove the screens, but still, I’d rather look out the window than watch TV.

    • Scott Hawthorn says:

      I used to watch takeoffs on CCTV through the front windows on Hawaiian Air, many years after the Chicago crash.

  18. Bill Goffe says:

    Several here mentioned how flight attendants will ask (well, pretty much demand) that those sitting in window seats pull down the shades. I understand why on some flights this might make sense, like on long international flights when in the departure city it is dark but currently light outside the plane.

    But, why do the FAs do this on day-time flights, say from Europe to the U.S., when you’re leaving and arriving in daylight?

    • Simon says:

      On the ground sometimes to keep the aircraft cooler. In the air because people want to watch movies, sleep, etc. As somebody who loves gazing out the window I find it quite annoying, but I understand where it comes from.

      That is one thing I did enjoy about the Dreamliner “shades”. It *is* a gimmick and it takes way longer to react than simply pulling down the blind, but the one nice thing is you can set it to very dark so the light bothers nobody, but still allows you to see a little bit of what’s going on outside.

  19. Michael says:

    I’ve got to have an aisle seat – I want to be able to get up and stretch my legs whenever I want as often as I want (fasten seat-belt sign permitting). My idea of flying hell would be a long haul flight in the window seat with the passengers nearer the aisle fast asleep.

    • Art Knight says:

      Window huggers like me thank you Sir!

    • Miguel says:

      I hear you. On the other hand, as an aisle seat passenger, you will be inconvenienced by the other two passengers every single time they want to go to the toilet. As a window seat passenger, you get to inconvenience them and be left alone when they want to stand up.

  20. Poko says:

    I bring a printed highway map of the US and track our position from the network of roads and towns below. Just like the pioneer airmail pilots. Best on transcontinental flights especially BOS-SFO or BOS-LAX. Much more difficult at night but much more fun and challenging. Better than watching a movie or the live GPS map on the entertainment system. Works only from a window seat and the window view is the same in economy as in business class. Egalitare!

    • Art Knight says:


    • Alan Dahl says:

      My dad used to use a Shell Oil map back in the 1960s to navigate and he was a DC-8 pilot! He’d started out following roads in a DC-3 and felt more comfortable verifying where he was against the map as a backup.

      • Art Knight says:

        Dead Reckoning is cool. However, nowadays it is big business. The pilots have to fly 24/7 in the night time in the shittiest of weather. Gotta simply watch the instruments.

  21. Dan Prall says:

    Patrick, simple solution. Keep your window seat, but be sure it’s a few rows in front of the engines.

  22. Art Knight says:

    My entrepreneurial spirit smells money here. I am completely serious. Simply e-mail me at and I will send you the address to mail the premium check. Once cashed, I will mail you the policy. The terms are, you pay a one-time-only premium of $1,000.00. When you get sucked out of a big old jet airplane window, I will pay your beneficiaries $100,000.

  23. Kevin A says:

    I’m with the rest of you, I always get a window seat. Aside from the terrific scenery, I love catching a glimpse of another plane at 30,000ft blasting along at 500mph. I liken it to spotting a whale on a boat, except way cooler.

  24. J Kevin Brady says:

    I never understand most planes today with all the windows shut and everyone in the dark. Many views from a plane are magnificent and cannot bexseen from the ground. I still prefer a window seat even after 1,850+ flights in my life, and the flight is as much a part of the journey to me as the destination. I was on the inaugural EWRHKG 777 in March of 2001, my first trip over the North Pole. The twilight of the sun on the horizon was magnificent with ethereal red cast on the ground-everyone else had their window shades down, some watching a rerun of a bad comedy show.

    My friend John and I thought of creating a lobby group who main purpose “open the window shades on your flight and live a little”

    Anyway, that’s my main beef along with everyone having to sleep all the time. I remember when one would look forward to a few drinks and a decent meal on a plane.

  25. dickwaitt says:

    My “window” experience was actually on an aircraft that didn’t have them – at least not many. In 1967 I was a passenger on a US Air Force C-141 fitted out as a passenger carrier, from Torrejon AFB near Madrid to Charleston, S.C.

    The only window was in a passenger door, as I remember, and it was fairly small. Not much to see there.

    In addition, the seats faced the rear rather than ahead, supposedly so the seat backs could support the passengers better in the event of an emergency during landing. Once inside it wasn’t too noticeable except for the initial impression upon boarding.

    Takeoffs and landings were another matter, being pressed into the seat belt upon taking off and into the seat back on landing, just opposite the normal expectation – especially since there were no windows to provide a visual reference.

    Finally, during the pre-flight safety presentation we were told that, after we were at cruising altitude, those passengers who wanted to could come forward and visit the flight deck. I was one of the first to do so, and my first impression was that of one of the flight crew with his feet on something ahead of him, possibly the lower edge of the instrument panel, and the other working a crossword puzzle.

    Many years later I made several trips on a corporate SabreLiner fitted with a “conference room” seating arrangement; two seats faced rearward and two faced forward. At least this time we had windows for visual reference.

    • Dan Prall says:

      In 1964 I flew from Ft. Campbell Ky to Madrid with breakfast onboard, then a few hours in Madrid for refueling and breakfast on the ground, then on to Incirlik AB in Adana Turkey, where we landed in time for breakfast. Like you, no windows. Part of field artillery support with the 2/320th FA, direct support first brigade, 101st Airborne. After a few days at Incirlik, we boarded about 120 C-130’s for a jump into Iran north of Dezful.

      After a 5-hour flight to the Drop Zone about 3 miles wide and 7 miles long, when we’d audibly been buzzed by MIGs as we went over the border from Turkey to Iran, we were stood up and hooked up when the AF crew chief came back and said “no jump – dust storm with particles up to 20,000 feet”, so we turned around for 5 hours back to Incirlik, where we drew thin mattresses and crashed on the ground.

      Next day, the drop was reduced from the whole brigade and our FA Bn to one Bn of Infantry and one of our batteries. The rest of us flew to Vadahti AB near Dezful and trucked out to an outpost west of the DZ.

      Even then it got fouled up as many of the 130 groups got lost in the dust and dropped troops at almost a 90 degree angle from the plannded path. It too a day for all the mis-dropped troops to get to the assembly area. Then we did a weeklong joint exercise with the Shah’s army, and at the end, we experienced another spring dust storm where we wore our gas masks outside tents just to be able to breathe.

      Ran out of space. See my next post.

    • Dan Prall says:

      =… continued.

      You can see the official video here:
      Big Picture: Exercise Delawar

      All I can say is that there is the official version and then there is reality from one who saw it live, and the gap has increased since 1964.

      With you-know-who’s recent abrogation of the multinational treaty with Iran in charge, who “doesn’t know the territory”, as The Music Man said, it’s Mission Impossible. It took a week for one brigade to “subdue” a strip about 15 miles long and 3 miles wide in a peacetime exercise. That’s 45 square miles in a country of about 636 thousand square miles and 80 million people, so all we’ll need is about 14 thousand times as many troops to “win”. Call a brigade 5000 men/women.

      That comes to 70 million; about one-to-one with the Iranians. So much for Rumfeld’s “you go to war with what you’ve got”, as if that wasn’t dis-proven in Iraq in 2003. But hey, with a massive draft of 1/4 or more of the U.S. population, we can do Iran. Couple of years to build enough planes to get them there and to train them, piece of cake.

      Yeah; I know it’s a bit of exaggeration, but not too much. Our country and Democracy are paying the price for having an evil nitwit in charge, whose main mission if to revoke all Obama did and a complicit Republican Party in Congress.

      End of rant…

  26. Bruce says:

    As someone who’s flying on a Sichuan Airlines A319 next week, I do hope they screw the windows in properly this time.

    The One-Eleven story is an extraordinary one: eyewitness stories on things like Air Crash Investigation are remarkable. The crew did an amazing job of holding on to their colleague.

    I always go for a window seat if there’s one available. And I do like the 787 for this: I love that you can actually see out of the windows on the other side of the plane because the windows are large and there are a lot of them. I haven’t flown on an A350 – are they similar?

    I wish FAs wouldn’t insist on closing the blinds (on planes that still have them) on daytime flights. I know it makes it easier to watch your screen, but still…. It’s just not very nice.

  27. Patty Jean says:

    I have always preferred the aisle seat (just as I prefer the “inside seat” at a table.) Also, I don’t like being bumped by folks walking in the aisle. Thanks for being the voice of reason, as always, though I am still afraid of turbulence!

    • Art Knight says:

      I think you meant you always preferred the window. Another good reason is if you’ve ever been whacked in the elbow by a flight attendant’s beverage cart. You’ll never want to be in the aisle again. I buy my food, use the restroom before I head to the gate and happily curl up in my window seat. I think it is gross to use the lavatory on a plane. Just like it is gross that my co-workers go No. 2 at work and most building engineers have apparently never heard of an exhaust fan. Get on a schedule and poop in the morning at home for cry aye!

      • Michael says:

        I’m hoping that you’re being ironic, but just in case not, most of us can’t control our bowl movements like that – we go when we need to go.

        • Art Knight says:

          No. I’m quite serious. I think it is nasty. I view the lavatory on a plane the same way I view the oxygen mask. It is there in an emergency.

          • Art Knight says:

            Also, I am a professional handy man and do not understand why building engineers working on $20 million dollar office buildings don’t put in a fifty dollar exhaust fan to draw the shit smell out.

  28. Nicole says:

    I always have to be by the window! My kids lose out. As soon as they were out of the car seats, I got the window seat back. I do stress out when traveling, and find it better for me to be able to see where we are. I got an amazing view of the Greenland icebergs when traveling from KEF-BOS. From TEL-LHR, I saw the island of Santorini, and it looked like the volcano it actually is. I like seeing the sunrise when it’s not even close to sunrise when taking a red-eye over the Atlantic.

    I hope the airlines do whatever they need to do to ensure that their windows and engines won’t suffer the damage that has happened lately.

    Thanks for your piece!

  29. Mark says:

    Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Washington Post wrote that MH370 may have been deliberately crashed by the pilot after depressurizing the 777. Ok, the “experts” that came up with this theory are a team of analysts assembled by Australia’s 60 Minutes, not exactly the NTSB.

    To keep this in line with the “windows” theme, the article speculates that the pilot looked out the window before diving the plane to his death.


    • Art Knight says:

      Hi Mark, I’m not certain what your point is. Of course the pilot looked out. It’s not as if they wear IFR hoods. There is a thread on this site in the archives called “Permanent Mystery.”

      • Art Knight says:

        Also, The NTSB has never been involved. Look at a globe. The Indian Ocean is directly on the opposite side of this swirling ball of mud that we call Earth from U.S.A. The only thing I’ve read from “former” NTSB employees is this…

        “I hope I am wrong but I personally don’t believe we will ever find the wreckage. I think we will find pieces that drifted,” Greg Feith, the investigator, said in an exclusive interview with Leeham News and Comment.

        “I don’t believe the information that’s available right now, as I know it and has been publicized, will be enough to come up with a single cause or probable cause,” he said in an interview March 31.

        Feith believes there will be several plausible theories that all will point to a deliberate act by someone with intimate knowledge of flying the Boeing 777, most likely one of the pilots. Too many deliberate actions maneuvering the airplane and turning off communications systems occurred to have any plausible mechanical failure explanation. He completely discounts theories that a fire, either in the electronics bay or involving lithium-ion batteries being transported in a cargo bay, disabled the airplane. He also discounts a theory that there was a depressurization that incapacitated the pilots and allowed the 777 to meander over the skies of the Gulf of Thailand, Malaysia and the Strait of Malacca before turning south 3,000 miles over the Indian Ocean before running out of fuel.

  30. Simon says:

    I love window seats myself. Problem is these days on long-hauls a lot of F/As will have you close the shades as soon as the meal service is over. Then all you have left is a seat that’s two pax away from the aisle to the lavatory.

    I miss the 2-3-2 of the old 767s or the 2-4-2 of the A330/340. These days it’s 10 abreast galore. And even if it’s 9 abreast A350 or older T7 seating), as the window seat passenger you’re still stuck with two other people between you and the aisle.

  31. Art Knight says:

    Usually on business trips I have a boatload of work to do, but I still always request a window by the engines. When sitting at the gate and it’s hot, I like to lean against the cooler interior fuselage wall panel. I love to see and hear the flaps extend and retract, the reverse thrusters “explode” open as we land. At night,the city lights giving way to suburbs. RUSH has a song that goes “I look down into a million houses and wonder what you’re doing tonight.”
    I actually go to sleep most nights to a recording of a turbofan engine. It relaxes me like nothing else and reminds me of that feeling. After all my work was done. I was heading home.

  32. AD says:

    Window seat whenever possible for me, too.

    For the same reasons: recognising landmarks, mountains, lakes, cities, airports. The best thing to do on flights with no inflight entertainment, which most of my flights are.

    I have a large collection of pictures taken from high up. Most are admittedly junk, but there are few nice ones. One of them is a picture of my cousin’s house in Switzerland, which I managed to spot when on the way from Madrid to Munich. Made her day when I presented her with it.

    I have a collage of two pics, one of a AA 757 about to take off, the other of Air Canada’s Bombardier waiting for its turn. Sounds like not much – except that they are in fact family pictures. My father in the Bombardier took a picture of me in the 757, and I took a picture of him in the Bombardier. Takes two window seat junkies to do it!

    But I also had the most claustrophobic experience, when the window seat in a 767 turned out to not have a window. A transatlantic flight, seated next to a rather large and smelly gentleman….

  33. Another_Josh says:

    I’ve always preferred a window seat, especially for the views on take-off and landing, during which I try to identify landmarks/roads/ect. On one departure from my home airport, a well-timed turn let me look almost directly down in my own backyard! Nowadays, most of my (now less-frequent) air travel is with kids, and they generally get the window seats for containment reasons and so they can experience the fun of looking out the windows.

    Once, when I was flying standby on a Midwest Express 717, I ended up in the “window seat” in the last row. Due to the the rear-mounted engines, there was no window there and I felt extremely disoriented during the taxi, take-off and landing portions of the trip. At least I got a warm cookie.

    • Art Knight says:

      Well, that’s sumpin’!

    • Kevin A says:

      Should be illegal; a window you can’t see out of. On a related note, I used to work for Midwest (actually Midwest Connect). When they went under and laid us all off, they sent us a whole box of those cookies. So that’s something too I guess.

    • Stephen Stapleton says:

      Speed, oh, yeah, baby, that’s the plane for me.

  34. Stephen Stapleton says:

    Given the small size and often little worth seeing, wouldn’t planes be better off without passenger windows? Frankly, I’d rather lower the risk of explosive decompression and see the view from a well placed camera on my monitor.