The Boeing 777X is perhaps one of the most hotly anticipated aircraft of this century so far. Although we don’t expect to see it in service until later next year, tidbits of information are beginning to slide through. Now, we know that one special feature of the 777-9 will be an overhead flightcrew rest area; one that can even be occupied during taxi, takeoff, and landing.
Special Conditions for the 777-9
A document filed to the Federal Register by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) today has revealed an unusual addition to the forthcoming Boeing 777X. The aircraft will have what the document calls a ‘novel or unusual’ design feature, requiring additional airworthiness checks.
This design feature is an overhead flightcrew rest (OFCR) compartment. This in itself is not hugely novel, but the fact it is designed to be available for use during taxi, takeoff, and landing makes it more unusual. The other feature of this particular flightcrew rest area is its location; above the passenger cabin. These characteristics mean it needs additional certification.
Crew rest compartments are common across commercial aircraft, particularly long-haul models. Indeed, the classic Boeing 777 also has an overhead flightcrew rest area, and one which is also certified for taxi, takeoff, and landing. It, too, needed to have Special Conditions approved for its use when that type was certified previously.
The Boeing Dreamliner 787-8 also has this novel design feature, which was issued with Special Conditions by the FAA.
The overhead crew rest area
The document describes in detail the nature and location of this new crew rest area. It says that the compartment will be equipped with two private berths and two seats. During flight, up to four crew members can make use of the space. During taxi, takeoff, and landing only two crew members will be allowed to occupy it, and only sat in the seats, not the berths.
The compartment is accessed via stairs from the main deck, concealed within a vestibule. As well as this main form of access, it says that there will be a secondary evacuation route that opens into the main passenger seating area.
In addition to the beds and seats, the crew area can also be furnished with a sink, a cold drinks storage area and a lavatory. It will, of course, have smoke detection and an emergency oxygen system.
Why the Special Conditions?
The FAA is requesting additional oversight of this overhead crew rest area due to its location. The fact it can be occupied during taxi, takeoff, and landing means the FAA needs to ensure it is completely in line with the safety requirements for these phases of flight.
In particular, the agency has highlighted the need to ensure safe evacuation from the rest area in the event of an emergency evacuation. This includes appropriate signage being installed, training for crew members and the ability to open the emergency hatch, even if passengers are crowding the cabin to evacuate.
It also says that there must be adequate access to oxygen masks, not just at the seats and berths but also in other areas, in the case that someone is moving around in the crew rest area. Crucially, it says that rescue crews and airport fire rescue personnel must have a means of being alerted to the possibility of this compartment being occupied in the case of an emergency landing.
What does this tell us about the 777-9?
While the inclusion of a crew rest area is nothing unusual, the fact it is planned to be occupied by flightcrew during taxi, takeoff and landing gives us some insight into the future mission profiles of the 777-9. With an occupiable rest area available throughout all phases of flight, crew would be able to operate ultra-long-haul flights, potentially without a stopover, without breaking flight time regulations.
It’s no surprise that the 777-9, soon to become the biggest commercial aircraft in production, will likely operate on some of the longest routes in the world. With the ability to have crew resting overhead through all stages of flight will enable airlines to be more flexible with their personnel.