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Future Trends - In Cabin Design

Reducing aircraft weight through advancements in technology and composites.

Most people do not pay as much attention as they should to the complex process of planning and designing their aircraft’s interior since they are pre-occupied with the aircraft performance. To them- the interior is simply a means of providing a space in which to work and rest while the aircraft transports passengers to their destination. This feature is the first in a series that will aim to de-mystify and provide insight into the world of aircraft interiors. Considering that the average interior cost is approximately 20-25% of the total price of the aircraft- careful planning needs to be directed to the interior- to ensure it meets all the requirements of the operator. We will discuss the various concerns of aircraft operators as they relate to interiors with subjects such as: “What To Look For In A Great Interior”- “What To Look-Out For”- “Pitfalls And Problems”- “New Technology For Interiors”- and more. We also encourage our readership to write us and request a topic that they would like to hear more about concerning the many aspects of aircraft interiors.

We begin- however- by discussing the future trends of aircraft interiors with a brief overview of the aviation interior design industry. Where is the trend for the design of corporate aircraft interiors heading? Talking to ten different people will likely yield ten different answers. To understand the future trend- we need to consider the two main entities with very different agendas.

On the one hand- the buyer of an aircraft has a specific requirement for efficient transportation coupled with premium comfort and amenities. On the other hand- however- the OEM supplies the main requirement of a comfortable aircraft while minimizing their costs and production time.

As the demand for large-body business aircraft continues to rise- the trend favoring a ‘production oriented’ manufacturing cycle is more likely to predominate. All the while- the buyer’s requirement for travel that results in the saving of precious time and gaining numerous conveniences will not have changed.

One of the greatest adversaries of an efficient aircraft is weight. So how does a buyer who wants all the ‘bells and whistles’- including a few gadgets- manage with stringent weight requirements?

One of the major trends in interior design will be diminished weight through the use of synthetic materials such as composites as well as aircraft interior components. Laying a veneer from a natural wood greatly enhances the galley with a high-end wood finish appearance as opposed to a plastic look - but with the light strong structure of composites. Cabin seats also make use of synthetic material- which results in greater comfort with reduced weight- enabling greater payload and enhanced aircraft performance.

The easiest way to reduce weight attributed to amenities and gadgets is to reduce the amount of wiring and again to make use of synthetic materials. Technological advancements have allowed interior designers to incorporate the use of wireless systems and micro-processors which result in smaller and lighter units. For example- wireless systems are currently being used on Global Express aircraft to control the cabin management system as well as laptop connectivity through one simple PDA device.

Monitor technology is another good example of recent technological advancements. Most older aircraft have a CRT based system limited to about 18 inches of viewing area at a weight of 25 lbs. Newer aircraft have 20 to 40 inch viewing LCD monitors that take up six to 10 inches less space from the bulkhead and weigh less than 10 lbs. Future units will only get bigger and lighter.

The biggest changes in future trends will affect the area of communications due to the fact that this is essentially customer driven. Faster internet service will always be a top draw for buyers as well as advanced telecommunications. Older aircraft rely on SATCOM (satellite communication) type systems- however- owners often prefer to simply use their cellular phone.

GSM is now widely available in most parts of the world and in the near future there will be enough satellites and ground stations to allow worldwide coverage. This will be very attractive to many people as they will only require one telephone number and be able to converse anywhere on earth up to 51-000 feet.

The largest trend-driver in future cabin design will be customer demand. For example- if enough customers desire hot tubs in their aircraft- the OEM will find a way to produce them. In the end- the customer wants a product that is uniquely theirs. This has led to the redefinition of what can be customized for particular clients.

Advancements in material technology allow customization and enhancements not even worth considering just a few years ago- when it was unheard of to have a shower on a business aircraft. But now- technology has been developed that allows a few gallons of water to be continuously cleaned- filtered and re-circulated for such a use. Aviation relies on science and technology for the advancement of materials and systems which is always rapidly changing.

Even airlines are competing on cabin design and amenities by differentiating themselves from their competition. One airline boasts that they have business class lie-flat seats- while the other has PTVs (personal television systems). Cabin design will continue to evolve and adapt to the latest technological and scientific advancements as long as it decreases the overall weight and provides enhancements for the buyer. It leaves aircraft owners asking: “What do I want in my aircraft next?”

This article was written by Aerospace Concepts (John Brodeur) which specializes in Aircraft Completion Management and Interior Design of large cabin business aircraft. In business since 1998 ACL has managed the aircraft completion centres of over 50 widebody aircraft including 40 Global Express aircraft. Photos and sketches are for the use of this aviation article only and may not be reproduced- copied and used without express written permission of the author and Aerospace Concepts LLC. Mr. Brodeur can be contacted at
Tel: +1 514-331-7900 or by email at jbrodeur@aerospaceconcepts.com
More information from www.aerospaceconcepts.com

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