Airbus Can Now Offer Dreamliner Style Dimmable Windows

Love them or loathe them, it looks like electronically dimmable windows are here to stay in commercial aviation. The business behind the infamous dimmable windows on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners has just announced that Airbus will be offering electronically dimmable windows on its aircraft too.

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Airbus will soon be offering its customers the option of electronically dimmable windows. Photo: Airbus.

The new window option for Airbus customers was announced at CES 2020

The world’s leading supplier of electronically dimmable windows (EDWs) is the Michigan based Gentex. Together with research partner PPG Aerospace and Boeing, they are behind those extra-large EDWs you can adjust (or more annoyingly, flight attendants can adjust) on the Dreamliners.

Yesterday, at CES 2020 in Las Vegas, Gentex announced Airbus would be offering the latest generation of EDWs on its planes. The news was reported in Yahoo Finance who note that further information will be provided in the 2020 spring.

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EDWs ostensibly have several benefits. Firstly, they allow passengers to darken their windows while still allowing them to see outside. Secondly, EDWs eliminates the need for traditional window shades, removing some weight from the aircraft. Finally, they have an inbuilt heat control solution that blocks infrared energy from entering the cabin and reducing the need for air conditioning.

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The electronically dimmable windows as seen on the 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Getty Images

And while EDWs make sense on so many levels, not all passengers are fans. One problem is not so much the technology as the propensity of some airline crews to dim all cabin windows as a matter of course on long haul flights (I’m looking at you Japan Airlines), overriding individual passenger preferences.

The updated EDWs to be made available to Airbus customers have several improvements over the older EDWs seen on the Dreamliners. Firstly, the Airbus EDWs will darken twice as fast and up to 100 times darker than the older EDWs (bad news for lovers of natural light in-flight). Secondly, the new EDWs will be an all-in-one single replaceable unit which makes installation and maintenance simpler. Finally, the new EDWs will boast a longer-lasting, scratch-resistant cover.

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How do electronically dimmable windows work?

Like most bright ideas, the science behind the EDW’s isn’t that complex. Well, it’s probably not that simple but when you read how it works, you might wonder why it wasn’t done earlier.

So how do EDWs work? EDWs have a proprietary electrochromic gel encapsulated between two thin glass panels. The gel darkens or lightens in response to electricity. When a low voltage electric current passes through the conductive gel it results in an electrochemical reaction in the gel, causing it to darken. When the electric current is turned off, the gel goes back to its natural, clear state, allowing you to see outside.

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One of the drawbacks of EDWs is that crew often override passenger control and automatically dim the windows, blocking out natural light and morning sunrises. Photo: Kuster Wildhaber Photography via Flickr.

Gentex’s CEO, Steve Downing told Yahoo;

“We worked together with Airbus to integrate the latest dimmable window technology while further enhancing it with an additional specialty coating.

“The windows benefit aircraft operators and passengers alike, which ultimately enhances the user experience for everyone on board.”

While it seems like such a simple idea, clearly it’s not that simple or EDWs would have been around for a long time. But what is clear now is that Gentex is onto a winner. The rise of EDWs on passenger aircraft is inevitable, like it or not. The business has the early mover advantage and, having patented the electrochromic gel, it is in the box seat moving into the next decade.

Simple Flying reached out to Gentex about their new deal with Airbus but haven’t heard back from them before publication.

Electronically dimming windows … are you a fan? Post a comment and let us know.

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Jim Richardson

I’m okay with EDWs with flight crew control as long as I have override capability at my seat. I can see why the crew might want to block sun on one side of a hot plane especially at the gate, or even in flight, but one reason for choosing a window seat is to have access to and use of the window, perhaps for photography for example.

Tango Alpha

‘But what is clear now is that Gentex is onto a winner. The rise of EDWs on passenger aircraft is inevitable’

How does the author know?

TonytTDK

Based upon the fact that Airbus has bought into the technology too.?
Overshadowed by all of the stuff that’s gone wrong with the B777X, I’d not be a bit surprised to find that IT will have the electronically tinted glass too.
The A350 will almost certainly be the 1st Airbus usage, but if they choose to fit it into the A320-321 range, it will effectively become the new ‘industry standard’.!

Danial

Moving forward, more technologically advanced and lighter aircraft are the way to go! I personally like the EDWs as they give you different levels of lighting depending on your mood or preference and I think they are here to stay. Kudos to Airbus for going down this route!

Paul Liriano

IF…… the crew is dimming the glass in an effort to help everyone acclimate to their new time zone, I have absolutely zero problem with this. Problem is leaving it up to flight attendants to handle it can be problematic. I wish it were something the aircraft could be electronically programmed to do to help with jet lag adjustment.

Bartosz

I was actually wondering a bit whether or not Airbus will have EDWs on their aircraft. I’m glad to see they’re introducing them! If these will be available on the A350 XWB, then it’ll become my favourite aircraft currently in the skies, no doubt about that!

Djespo

At first I thought they were cool but now I really hate dimable windows Please don’t do it. It’s no longer cool. Shades work better and are super fast as compared. Besides Airbusnyou will be following Boeing’s lead. You guys are too good for that

MAK

just hated the ones on the 787s – too slow and at times don’t work at all getting stuck at a particular shading point! yes, there should be a system with which the individual window seat pax can over-ride the unilateral commands from the cabin crew.