Design that’s ‘Plane’ to see

Seven exhibitors from Aircraft Interiors Middle East 2012 discuss the aesthetics and upcoming trends of industrial design in aeroplanes

Designing the interior of an aircraft cabin is not as straight forward as people might think. It has to take into consideration weight restrictions, colour schemes that don’t clash and incorporate the latest technology to keep up with the times.

Eads Sogerma manufactures first and business class seats including the Ultimate Sleeper Suite which opens out into a full bed and the Ultimate 17 First Class Suite, C180. Other products include Evolys, Solstys Premium Business Class and Equinox.

Jeffrey Forsbrey, VP sales and marketing, said the company has its own seat design team, and in the past has worked with Pierre Jean Design Studio, which is based in Paris and specialises in both commercial and private aircrafts and yachts and Acumen Design in the UK.

“We try to work with our own in-house design team and that of the airline company. For us it’s all about the quality of the product but the challenges we face always remain the same; number one is the weight restriction, then we look to be innovative, and design a product that creates a feeling of luxury and comfort,” he said.

“A second challenge is the reliability of the product. Once we have designed something and put it out to market we need to avoid any issues with repairs and spare parts because for us it’s all about the quality of the product.”

A concept can take 24 months from start to finish and the firm tailors specific requests through its Blue Sky Programme where everything is custom-made.

EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company) includes Airbus, Eurocopter, helicopter supplier and Astrium space programmes such as Cassidian, which makes aerial, land, naval and civilian security systems.

“Our internal design team is not very big, we have about eight industrial designers based in France, but we can bring in key designers from outside or work with an airline’s marketing team to define a product,” said Forsbrey.

“We used to work with leather then swung back to fabrics but now we can produce seats from anything, from silk to wood to suede. They come in a plethora of colours from orange to purple, grey, gold or red. It’s amazing when you see how a product and marketing can evolve designs to suit the cabins and we are happy to work with their vision.”

Eads Sogerma seats can be found in airline planes including Gulf Air, Qatar Airways, Etihad and is in discussions with Emirates.

“There is a change taking place now where there is a requirement to meet market expectations. In business class this includes fully flat seats which turn into beds because people on overnight flights want to sleep.

More people are travelling than ever before and a lot of airlines are changing their product requirements to meet the needs of overnight business class passengers and customer expectations,” Forsbrey added.

Matteo Bulletti is the owner of Delta Interior Design, based in Sirone, Italy. The company has been operating for 12 years and specialises in business aircraft interior design and refurbishment.

“The challenges we find today are clients wanting to change from a classic interiors to something more modern looking. Italian design is minimalistic by nature and the older generation prefer dark browns and beige but the owners of modern jets are getting younger and there is more space in the interior which allows us to be more creative,” he said.

“There is no one school that teaches students about the constraints of interior design in an aircraft. We work with IED, the Istituto Europeo di Design, which is the International Higher Educational Network in design, fashion, visual communication and management of creative industries.

It offers undergraduate courses, advanced courses and Masters. Graduates need to be informed about regulations and certification problems because everything is about safety, that is the number one priority. Safety and weight reduction to make everything as light as possible.

The aviation industry is quite different from any other type of furniture production. It is similar to yachts because of the weight and space of the design but not the same as cars and cruise liners. It is a completely different marketplace. It’s common to find someone who works in rail and transportation design but not many who specialise in aviation.”

According to Bulletti, aesthetics on an aeroplane covers everything from the carpets, to the colour, the appearance and quality of the fabric and the curtains, doors and window blinds.

“A designer has to think about longevity and how many times a person will walk on a carpet in an aircraft. Some customers are allergic to wool or dust so we tend to use more natural fibres such as nettle wool, hemp and jute (a vegetable fibre that can be spun into coarse, strong threads). Sometimes we mix silk and wool together. In the past, the cabins of private jets were made from wood or veneer, now there are requests for a composition of wood to create different textures and an adjustable lighting system to create various moods,” he added.

“We not only work on what you see but what you feel, for example foam that reduces vibration in the seats, an acoustic installation that blocks out engine noise, noise cancelling headphones and a PC software that can monitor frequencies and turbulence.”

Delta has worked with architect Dante Benini and is about to partner with Michela Reverberi, an Italian interior designer known for her work on superyacht interiors, including the Quinta Essentia.

Paul Zawadzki, is the regional sales manager for Anker Aircraft Carpets in Germany. Since the early 1960s, the company has made carpeting for aeroplanes distinguished by their minimum weight and robustness. It has been working with Rohi for three years, which produces fabrics for seat covers and curtains.

“The latest trend on the market is manufacturing a carpet that looks like wool but is a nylon combination increasing the durability of the material. We produce lightweight carpets made of recycled yarns because weight saving is an important issue for the airlines as it is cost saving, increases durability, decreases the weight and is sustainable,” said Zawadzki.

“About 50% of our customers want a blue carpet, but the big carriers are working with design studios to develop colours and we are translating that through our products. Each airline is completely different in what they want. It depends on the market they want to appeal to.”

Anker is the sole supplier of Emirates and delivers carpets to Lufthansa German Airlines, Air New Zealand and Croatia Airlines.

Zawadzki said some airline companies have changed the way they operate and now want dual suppliers for interiors, which is why it partnered with Rohi.

“The biggest challenges are budget restrictions. Some cabin carpets are expensive and will last longer. If you buy a cheaper carpet then you are replacing it more often,” he added.

“We have to produce a material that is a high quality product which is durable and looks brand new every time. The colour has to take into consideration the number of people walking on it which will become dirty over time so we look at matching different colours to disguise stains. If you get the wrong colour you will see everything on that carpet. We advise customers on what they have to change to get the best product design and practicality to always have a nice looking cabin.”

Philipp Dahm, MD, Rohi, added the fabric for a low cost airline looks different to a premium one, which invest more in maintenance and cleaning. A low cost carrier has less time for grounding.

“We launch a collection every year at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg,” he said. “We can provide a collection which gives the client a first impression and they take it as the basis for further development and get back to us with their feedback.

One trend is for cheap low cost products while the other is to offer a more premium fabric to differentiate from the competition. Our studio is based in Munich where we have an in-house team of eight textile designers. Our fabrics are value for money, attractive for the passenger, durable and easy to maintain. We won the Red Dot Award for product design 2010.”

Dahm said people who travel a lot look for something that sets a certain mood in the design of the interiors, a more homely feel, similar to lounges in hotels.

“In future we will see more of a ‘chamelon effect’ with a multitude of colours and a ‘flipflop’ fabric which will look like the product is made from silk when it is wool.”

Ifor Cole, aftermarket account manager, B/E Aerospace Middle East, is based at Dubai Airport Freezone. It manufactures aircraft passenger cabin interior products for commercial and business jets and recently won a contract with The Boeing Company to install a modular lavatory system (MLS) for its 737 next generation family of airplanes and 737 MAX.

“We are not afraid to think big and are investing in new products to offer a one-stop shop for customers. We recently launched the Essence Inserts Collection, a line of kitchen equipment for the galleys in the aircraft cabin, including beverage makers, ovens and water heater,” he said.

According to Gerrit Baron, regional sales manager, interior systems, B/E Aerospace, Airbus has selected the company to supply its galley inserts for the new A350 XWB aircraft and deliveries will commence in 2013.

“Commercial aircraft galleys have remained virtually unchanged for the last 40 years. It is usually the ugliest area of the plane and for the first time we have come up with aircraft kitchen equipment that integrates everything, trying to make it look like something you might have at home. We are trying to make the galley inserts more aesthetically pleasing and to offer a better experience for customers,” he said.

Jean-Pierre Alfano, creative director, AirJet Designs in Toulouse, France, has a team of three French and Italian designers and said the main challenges of industrial design for aeroplanes is meeting airworthiness constraints with innovation and creativity.

“We recently finished designing a VIP A319 for a private individual in China. The design process for that project was fascinating because we brought Italian and French styling onto the table while our client was inspired by Chinese views and aesthetics,” he said.

“I rediscovered the importance and power of symbolism and accessories and understood very often there is more than meets the eye in a design choice.”

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