FLYING IS THE great perk of the modern world. Racing high over beautiful landscapes, catching epic sunrises, slicing through clouds, it’s an exquisite way to appreciate nature’s grandeur. And while you might not get to enjoy it—stuck in the middle seat in economy, craning your neck to see through that tiny porthole of a window—those who can afford airborne luxury have a better view. And thanks to Embraer, it’s about to get way, way better.
The Brazilian airplane manufacturer now offers spectacularly large windows in its $53 million Lineage 1000 business jet. The expansive glass—one window is the size of a standard plane door—bathes passengers in natural light and provides views perhaps rivaled only by the International Space Station’s observation window.
Embraer says it’s long been envious of the limitless features wealthy customers can put in their homes and superyachts, which don’t have to meet the aviation industry’s strict safety requirements. “I’ve always believed that we should be able to execute the customer’s dreams and passions in an airplane,” says Jay Beever, VP of interior design. “Customers are usually being told ‘no’ because of certification restrictions in airplanes.”
To liven up the interior of its Lineage line of business jets, based on its 190 regional jet, Embraer teamed up with superyacht designer Patrick Knowles. In addition to adding a two-person shower, they quickly agreed on doing something new with the windows. The result is the “Airship Kyoto” concept—a magnificently sun-filled aircraft that seems half made of glass. (The hypothetical customer is a Japanese businessman who might prefer sitting on the floor.)
And Beever says, any new Lineage 1000 customers who want those door-sized windows can have them. Actually making it real would be little more than a matter of punching a few new holes in the fuselage. Plane windows are typically small because they work against the airframe’s structural integrity, and because they add weight, which hurts fuel economy. (That’s why one company says we should fly in windlowless, screen-packed jets, and why Boeing was able to put larger windows in the weight-saving, composite 787 Dreamliner).
But because the dimensions of Embraer’s mega window match those of a standard exit in a commercial airplane, the company’s engineers are just putting glass where they’d normally put a door. In fact, they’ve done this before: Embraer developed a version of the ERJ-145 regional jet for the Brazilian Coast Guard in the 1990s that had an observation window similar to this one. When it comes to structure, just put the window forward of the wing. “There’s a lot of stress and load on the wing during flight that extends through the fuselage and all the way back to the tail,” Beever says.
The new version of the window would use modern anti-fogging protection and electrochromic glass to allow tunable tint and shading of the multilayer window. Electric shades would completely block out the light when passengers are sleeping. Embraer might elect to 3D-print titanium installation hardware to keep the window’s weight down and to facilitate its integration into the airframe, Beever says.
The Lineage 1000 is based on a commercial aircraft, so it’s designed to meet the same durability requirements demanded of planes for the hoi polloi. That de facto compatibility means there’s a greater chance that one day, you might enjoy great views while aloft, even if you’re stuck in the middle seat. “We like our top technologies to filter across all of our products,” Beever says, adding that there’s a quality-of-life benefit to having huge windows, not just a luxury benefit. Just don’t expect that two-person shower.