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The air gaspers (in large passenger aircraft) above the passengers' heads are fed from the main air conditioning system, at least in all aircraft that I am familiar with (see also this answer). This design probably makes sense, as it's very simple (no moving parts other than the gaspers) and takes advantage of a system which is already installed in the aircraft to provide additional functionality.

Still, I'm curious:

  • have other designs for individually adjustable passenger ventilation been tried (i.e. installed in large passenger aircraft), and why were they abandoned in favour of the current design? Off the top of my head I can think of a system with little fans above each seat - although it's probably far more prone to breaking than the current system.
  • Some cars have individual climate control (where the air supplied to each occupant can have a different temperature), has that ever been tried on a large commercial aircraft?
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  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't seem related to aviation, the same question would apply as well to caoches, trains, etc. $\endgroup$ – mins Jan 29 '16 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ @mins: I'm specifically interested in applications in aviation (specifically large commercial passenger aircraft), as the design challenges are unique (compared to cars, coaches, buildings...). $\endgroup$ – Lightsider Jan 29 '16 at 9:13
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    $\begingroup$ A bus or car has different requirements than an airplane @mins, plus even if it was the same it still relates to airplanes. I don't see why this is off-topic. $\endgroup$ – GdD Jan 29 '16 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ I think it's a valid question. I can also see why, if other systems have been tried, they've gone back to this - it's dead simple. One or two large fans push centrally cooled air down a couple of pipes above the pax cabin. Each individual aims and opens/closes a passive device to adjust how much of that airflow he gets. No other active devices to test, fail and replace. It's also rather light in comparison to individual fans, heating & AC equipment for each seat. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jan 29 '16 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan: I'm curious to see the significant differences in design, so far what is described seems to be very similar to this. $\endgroup$ – mins Jan 29 '16 at 20:02
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Whether or not they have been "tried" is probably not answerable, as "try this" type designs typically don't make it into production aircraft.

Look at the simplicity of the existing system, its simply some lightweight ducting with an adjustable air vent above each seat. The entire system has no other electric or adjustable parts, so maintenance is pretty easy, as well as reliability. Its also probably a hell of a lot easier to get certified.

Putting little fans above each seat wouldn't have any benefit here, as the air they move from one side of the fan to the other side has to be of a significant volume anyway, so you would still need ducting. The fan speed would be controllable, but then again so is the orifice size of the existing vents, so really no benefit there other than complexity and more wiring/electronics.

The existing system also works relatively well for individual climate control. Unlike in your car, you don't have a large space between you and the person next to you, so getting "individual" control is difficult (Seat A at X degrees, Seat B at Y degrees, etc). But note that even in your car you really aren't adjusting the heat or cold temperature, but the fan speed either through the AC system or through the heater. The heater and AC are at a constant temperature all the time.

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  • $\begingroup$ I've seen cars (mid-range European cars) which have individual temperature controls for the driver and front passenger. To be honest I'm not entirely sure how they work or how effective they are, but that's what I was referring to. $\endgroup$ – Lightsider Feb 1 '16 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Lightsider - see the image link in mins' comment. They have the individual HVAC controls in many American cars, as well, and they work pretty well. I think the difference, as noted in comments and this answer, is that the weight and complexity of the gasper just can't be beat for the small benefit of a more complex set up when considering aviation needs. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Feb 1 '16 at 13:36

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