Last updated: 10:07 AM ET, Tue December 22 2015

Why You'll Probably Never See SkyDeck on A Plane

Airlines & Airports | Paul Thompson | December 22, 2015

Why You'll Probably Never See SkyDeck on A Plane

Photo via Windspeed Technologies

When many of us fly, we like to be able to see out the window. If not to watch the scenery go by below, or a distant thunderstorm, we at least desire some sort of spatial sense of where we are. But one company wants to change that.

As an aviation geek, one of the things I often noticed when looking at vintage warplanes is the bubble-shaped machine gun turrets on top or below the plane. I daydreamed about the view those guys must have had — outside of being shot at, of course. But having a 360-degree vista of the Earth must have been absolutely amazing.

Even now, some commercial jets offer panoramic views throughout your flight, by way of cameras mounted high atop the plane’s tail, or under the nose of the plane. I experienced such views on Lufthansa’s Airbus A380 when I flew it in 2012 for the first time, from Frankfurt to New York’s JFK Airport. I had an aisle seat in the center section in Economy, so I was without a good view from a window. I found myself more absorbed in the camera view and ignored the assorted inflight entertainment.

Fast-forward a few years, and a company named Windspeed Technologies has developed a concept called the SkyDeck that puts a new bubble on top of jets. Inside the plane, an elevator raises one or two seats from normal cabin level up to the bubble. A staircase option is also available. I’ve gotta admit, this sounds awesome.

Here’s why we’ll never see it on a commercial airline flight.

First, the SkyDeck will take up a lot of valuable real estate in the plane’s cabin. As we’ve seen the past few years, airlines are looking to maximize every possible square inch of space. Second, the SkyDeck will also add a bunch of weight, which makes the plane less fuel efficient to fly.

Speaking of fuel efficiency, that bubble up there adds drag, which further reduces fuel efficiency. Even the radomes on top of planes that contain satellite Wi-Fi antennas reduce two to three percent of the plane’s fuel efficiency.

Finally, we’ll never see the SkyDeck on an airline because they would have to charge a boatload of money in order to make it profitable. Removing seats to make way for this contraption, plus the additional weight and drag, adds up to a lot of compensation.

Profit is the name of the game these days, and airlines are pinching every penny in order to keep investors happy. And what if you bought those expensive seats, and the dome has a bunch of bug residue on it, obscuring that epic view?

The most likely place we’ll ever see the SkyDeck is atop a private jet, owned by an oil company, software tycoon, or Middle Eastern sheikh — guys with money to burn. Windspeed has had a patent pending for SkyDeck since April, but it may be a very long time before we ever see it in the wild, if ever.


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