By Bjorn Fehrm
05 April 2016, ©. Leeham Co: We are at the Aircraft Interior eXpo, AIX 2016, to check out what’s new where the aircraft meets the passenger. We got to the expo in Hamburg on a full Lufthansa A320 flight. It was the usual struggle for the last passengers boarding to find place for their roller bags in the overhead bins.
Airbus showed the new overhead bins for the A320 at the show, Figure 1. They will be a big relief for the airlines and passengers, just like the Space-bins announced by Boeing at last year’s show.
As can be seen in the picture the passengers don’t get quite the nice airy feeling which is part of Boeing’s Sky interior. The shape of the bins are rather like the present day product but with the A350 style curvature to the other section.
It thereby will bring a bit lighter feel to the cabin but most importantly more space for carry on luggage. Roller bags can be stored standing on the side and this increases the capacity with over 50%. The first delivery of the new bins was to Delta for their new A321 last month. As can be seen in the picture mood LED lighting is also part of the A320 cabin upgrade.
The cabin area is perhaps the part of the aircraft where the strongest innovation takes place at the moment. This is also our reason for going to the Cabin Interior Expo for the first time. Weight is a major factor in the performance of the aircraft. The aircraft OEMs have special teams that are constantly chasing weight reductions on existing platforms. Boeing’s 777 team described how they over several years could chop 500kg out of the empty weight of a 777-300ER’s standard product specification.
It is therefore a small revolution when seat weight in an aircraft can be reduced with up to 30% for new designs. In total the seats in a modern two class single aisle aircraft weigh about 3 metric tonnes. A weight reduction of 30 percent is then close to a tonne, a fantastic achievement if it can be carried through to all seats.
For a long range aircraft like a Boeing 787 we are talking of close to 5 tonnes. Here we would gain in excess of 1 tonne when introducing the latest lighter long range seats.
The other trend for especially economy class seating is the carving back of more passenger legroom at today’s lower seat pitches. I tried several new generation seats at 30 inch pitch at the show and through cleverly curved and thinner backrest they felt like they had the classical 32 inch legroom. I’m over 6 foot tall and I had no problem with the new seats at 30 inch pitch.
The innovation in the tighter seating for Low Cost Carriers (LCC) is also strong. Several LCC seat concepts were shown at the show where the manufacturers are trying to get the passenger decent leg space at seat pitches below 30 inch. It seems a normally built individual should get a acceptable experience over short haul down to about 28 inches.
The other major trend at the show is a better internet experience in the aircraft. This is all about the satellite networks which carry the internet to the aircraft. We will cover what is happening at that front in tomorrow’s report from the show.