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By Bernard Choi
Watching David Funk put together a stowbin, you understand why he likens the process to building a model airplane.
The Boeing mechanic heaps a drop of glue onto a plastic strip, spreads it uniformly across the material and mounts it onto the side of the bin.
This meticulous process is repeated several times, mixed with drilling screws and applying and removing plastic tape.
"You build, you assemble and at the end you've got your piece of work," said Funk, who has built thousands of stowbins for Boeing Next-Generation 737s.
Now, he and his team are working on a different model.
Recently, mechanics at Boeing's Interiors Responsibility Center in Everett, Wash., began building the first production parts for the new 737 Boeing Sky Interior, a redesigned passenger cabin based on the 787 Dreamliner interior.
"We're giving you the impression of space. All of these elements make the cabin feel as large as we can possibly make it feel."
Colleen Rainbolt, Passenger Satisfaction and Revenue team
"We literally started from scratch," said John Hamilton, chief project engineer for the 737, "including all new stowbins, all new sidewalls and all new lights. The passenger service unit that has the oxygen masks is all brand-new. The ceiling panels are all new. A lot of hours have gone into this."
Instead of shelf-type stow compartments bordering the aisle, Funk is building stowbins that curve up toward the ceiling.
"By pushing the bins up and out of your visual space as much as possible, you really can open up the way the cabin feels," says Colleen Rainbolt, who works on a Boeing team dedicated to improving the passenger experience while helping airlines make money.
Inside a mock-up of the new interior, Rainbolt shows off the bins and points out other features of the Boeing Sky Interior (Click on the adjacent picture for a video tour):
"We're giving you the impression of space by playing with the lighting and opening up the contour of window. All of these elements make the cabin feel as large as we can possibly make it feel," said Rainbolt.
"This is what people around the world are going to be looking at. I think that's pretty exciting."
David Funk, Boeing mechanic
It's not just form, but also function. A mechanical device has been added to the side of the stowbins to help passengers close them. The bins are also larger and can fit more bags.
The passenger service unit has been rearranged so when you reach for the reading light, you're less likely to call the flight attendant. Moreover, noise dampening material against the airplane skin will make for a quieter cabin.
"We've developed a whole philosophy for what the interior of an airplane should be like," said Rainbolt. "First and foremost, our goal is to remind passengers of the universal love for flying."
Since seven airlines launched the Boeing Sky Interior last year, several other carriers have also signed up. The first airplane with the new cabin will be delivered later this year.
David Funk looks forward to building many more of the new bins. "This is what people around the world are going to be looking at. I think that's pretty exciting."