This morning’s WSJ report (here) on how airlines are making economy class air travel even less inviting jogged some memories of a new concept that I’ve discussed with my technology development buddies over the years. Maybe now that the uncomfortable version of stack/pack seating has become de rigueur, it’s time to again consider a better way for the modern day. But first some background.
When I was doing black studies work for the DoD in the 1970s as the Vietnam War was winding down, an Army research arm published some preliminary results in one of its R&D newsletters about a technique, first described more than ten years earlier (here), for anesthetizing the wounded in battlefield hospitals. The method involved applying a low amperage, low frequency current through electrodes placed on the patient’s temples. The report stated the obvious benefits of such a simple and presumably controllable ‘anesthetic’ that would quickly render the individual unconscious and keep him that way until the current was turned off.
I got all excited about ancillary uses for such a technology both in military and civilian environments. Without going into details here, it involved using the technology as a ‘time machine’ that would allow an individual to be perceptively, restfully, and safely ‘transported’ into the future. I shared these ideas with my research colleagues, and we came up with a bunch of applications and product concepts. And then the research program just up and disappeared from the follow-on literature. In those days I had a company to run and no time to dig up what happened to this intriguing technology. Over the years the topic has occasionally come up only at dinner parties preceded by some related item.
And then I saw the airline passenger packing article which immediately qued up (yes, yes, it should be spelled ‘queued’) the above story. So here’s a concept outline for a new class of airline travel which I will name ‘Cocoon Class’ or CC. Airplanes will be designed to have part of their passenger space configured to hold densely stacked cocoons each containing a passenger. The passengers will be ‘anesthetized’ either chemically or electrically or both. The anesthesia need not be the deep kind that patients undergoing serious surgery endure, but a milder form which, say, people having undergone colonoscopies or dental procedures understand. Under such ministrations you feel that you are still awake but time seems to have passed very fast until you are fully awake again.
The passengers in CC class would be prepared in the boarding lounge by lying down in their open cocoons where one or more appropriate monitoring leads would be attached, after which they would be administered the anesthetic of a dosage sufficient for the duration of their trip. Once under they would be wheeled aboard the aircraft and stowed. The process would be reversed at their destination where they are fully awake as they exit their cocoons to go retrieve their luggage in the usual manner.
In flight the CC passengers would be monitored automatically with a medical technician available as a member of the cabin crew should the need arise to deepen the anesthesia or provide other needed attention for the passenger. Rough calculations show that such a CC configuration would permit increasing the passenger count from 60% to 100%, potentially doubling the passenger capacities of today’s aircraft.
Admittedly this description has been nothing beyond a concept outline with many feasibility and design details to be worked out. But given the direction of today’s air travel into what easily may soon violate the Geneva convention against cruel and unusual punishment, I submit that this concept is worthy of more serious investigation. Should this idea work, I most certainly would opt for traveling in CC class to arrive at my destination rapidly and rested, ready for the next activity on my schedule.