- 21 Jun 2022
- Dave Higdon
Considering an interior refurbishment? What are some of the lighting tips that will enhance and maximize the functionality and appeal of your airplane’s cabin? Rebecca Applegarth asks the experts.Back to Articles
Whether you’re flying an older, legacy private jet (or turboprop) with an outdated, heat-emitting lighting system in the cabin, purchased a pre-owned aircraft and need to adapt the cabin lighting to your specific purposes, or your trip profile has evolved and the lighting that used to work no longer does so, there’s likely to be a good, relatively low-cost solution available to you.
As with so many things relating to the cabin, refurbishing the lighting in your aircraft is all about the timing, ensuring cost and downtime are minimized. In some cases, the best time is when the aircraft is down for other maintenance requiring the removal of the interior.
As one might expect, there’s much more to the selection of a cabin lighting system than meets the eye.
When it comes to improving the functionality of the cabin space, your choices will be primarily dependent on the size of the aircraft cabin, and its configuration. Making efficient use of the space available is essential.
“In some of the larger business jets, there are forward and aft seating arrangements, often with bulkhead dividers that can be closed off,” Steve Elofson, Senior Avionics Installation Rep at Duncan Aviation, highlights. “In the configurations that do not allow for that kind of separation, reading and table lights are typically very directed, and can be utilized without disturbing others.
“The effectiveness of lighting systems often ultimately comes down to the functionality and capability of the Cabin Management System (CMS) installed in the aircraft,” he adds. “Ensuring that any lighting system is integrated well into the aircraft’s CMS is the biggest thing that can be done to optimize control for the passengers.”
Ultimately, he argues, for owners and operators to take advantage of the most recent and newer lighting features, an up-to-date, modern CMS is required. This may mean a retrofit of the cabin’s CMS needs to feature simultaneously with the lighting upgrade project.
“Older CMSs simply cannot support the level of ease, control, and intuitiveness that newer CMSs will allow,” Elofson argues.
Lighting to Support the Mood
Regardless of the CMS installed in the airplane, or the size of the cabin, thoughtful selection of lighting to support different types of activity taking place aboard the airplane is important.
Passengers in a more active mood, such as those conducting business will prefer brighter tones like white/yellows, says Veta Traxler, Paint and Interior Designer at West Star Aviation. “The lighting will generally match the activity. Passengers resting or watching a movie, for example, will prefer cooler/darker tones like blue or purple.”
Whereas brighter, direct lighting would support business activities in the cabin, wash lighting - also known as indirect lighting – is more suitable to enable rest and relaxation aboard the jet. Wash lighting in a business aircraft cabin is generally mounted behind the Passenger Service Unit (PSU) panels.
“The PSU panels separate the upper sidewall and headliner panels and house the reading/table lights,” Elofson explains, adding that a set of continuous lights stretching the entire length of the cabin can be hidden behind these panels, washing over the upper sidewall and headliner panels, creating an illuminating effect in the cabin.
“Although not very common, some business aircraft are equipped with similar lighting to wash lighting, but the long thin lighting strips are mounted behind lenses in the headliner or PSU panels,” he continues. “This would be considered direct cabin lighting, as the lights shine directly through the lens into the cabin.
“Reading and table lights are typically located in the PSU panels above each cabin seating position. The light beam angle is focused to a spot just in front of a single passenger or table surface.”
Different Lights for Different Functions
Different types of lights are common in different parts of the cabin. For example, dome lights are typically found in the entry, lavatories, and baggage compartment areas, and are typically centered in the headliner, providing overhead lighting for a particular area.
And floor lighting is another type of indirect lighting mounted in the toe-kick areas of cabinets and along the bottom of the lower sidewall panels in the cabin. “Floor lighting provides a visually pleasing effect and can be used during night flights to provide low cabin lighting for some passengers to safely navigate the cabin while not disturbing those who are sleeping,” Elofson highlights.
Meanwhile, the galley often utilizes several different lighting types. “A work light is mounted under the upper galley cabinet providing an indirect light for the counter area of the galley” he explains. “And many aircraft also have a red nightlight mounted alongside the white work light in this area, and this is used at night as it’s non-glaring and won’t disturb passengers when the cabin is dark.”
Where an aircraft galley has a glass or crystal storage area in the upper area, lighting can be mounted behind the glass that can “illuminate the space and create an elegant effect,” Elofson suggests.
“Galley lighting can be bright white for preparing meals, then, when meal service is complete, the lighting can switch back to match the rest of the cabin,” Traxler adds. “You can have a lot of fun with cabin lighting these days.”
Traxler refers to Prizm Lighting, the solution designed and manufactured by Elliott Technologies, which has multi-channel controllers allowing the lighting in different areas of the airplane to be operated independently.
“The forward cabin can be bright white for business, while the aft cabin can be an alternate color – such as blue/purple if someone wants to relax,” she says. “If you happen to be flying on the Fourth of July, you might choose red for the upwash, blue for downwash and white for accent lighting, or a charter operator can take advantage by programming the lighting to that customer’s corporate colors.”
The beauty of the Prizm lighting system is that any passenger with a smartphone can have full control of the cabin’s lighting capabilities, Traxler highlights. “They will be able to adjust brightness and color to fit their needs at any given time’,
Ultimately, the choices abound on what is possible for the lighting in a private jet cabin – large or small, and the budget doesn’t need to be substantial to achieve some highly pleasing results, aesthetically. But taking the time to understand your typical trip requirement, and plan the lighting to facilitate it will be essential.
More information from:
Duncan Aviation: www.duncanaviation.aero
West Star Aviation: www.weststaraviation.com
Read more articles on Jet Reburbishments on AvBuyer.