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21 products for the aircraft cabins of tomorrow

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The Crystal Cabin Award is the world’s first port of call when it comes to innovations in aircraft cabins. The 21 finalists for 2014 are now in place.

From such futuristic concepts as an aircraft seat with a touchscreen in the backrest all the way to pragmatic products like a laptop charging point at each seat, the finalists for this year's Crystal Cabin Awards are providing a good overview of what passengers can expect to see on board very soon. Again and again it comes down to the burning question: how can an increase in passenger comfort be combined with an increase in efficiency for flight operations. This was also a significant criterium for the 24-person international Judging Panel, including amongst its members numerous representatives of airlines and all the major aircraft manufacturers, as they examined every one of the 55 shortlisted entries from 12 countries with a fine-toothed comb. For the eight time, the finalists and winners in the seven award categories are being presented at the "Aircraft Interiors Expo", a trade fair for aircraft cabins, being held in Hamburg from 8 to 10 April this year.

Innovations, that passengers can expect to encounter in the near future, are particularly well represented amongst the three finalists in the category "Passenger Comfort Systems". The acWAP from Lufthansa Technik is a high-speed router which makes even data-intensive applications such as video streaming or online games possible throughout the cabin. It is due to be installed in 20 Lufthansa Airbus aircraft this summer. On-board surfing, however, does drain the battery at an alarming rate - a problem that Armstrong Aerospace, a finalist from the USA, has addressed. The company has submitted PowerBox, a mobile power point module, which saves space and can be installed under the seat in front with a minimum of effort. The product has already been certified by the American Federal Aviation Administration. Meanwhile, France's Zodiac Aerospace has made it to the final without electronics, submitting the ISIS Aft Complex. This concept sees the toilet and galley modules, which to date have been separate units, put side by side on the rear cabin wall. The result: the available length of the cabin grows by three feet.

US finalist B/E Aerospace took a similar approach to win a place in the last three in the "Industrial Design & Visionary Concepts" category. Their design for an Advanced Laboratory is a particularly slimline toilet module which makes it possible to integrate up to six additional seats in an aircraft. They are pitted against Zodiac's final entry, the Halo First Class design study, offering passengers a lounge-like suite with expansive privacy. The French finalist Expliseat, meanwhile, focussed on Economy with a titanium seat. Not only does this particularly lightweight material offer 125 times (!) the life expectancy of conventional aluminium seat frames; it also results in a fuel saving of almost 300,000 euros and a CO2 reduction of 800 tonnes per aircraft per year.

Efficiency is also a key consideration in the "Greener Cabin, Health, Safety & Environment" category. German finalist DIEHL Aerospace has developed DACAPO, a power-saving, self-sufficient cabin system using rechargeable and replaceable battery trolleys. Vision Systems from France has reached the final round with the "Energia" aircraft window in which a transparent photovoltaic film inserted into the pane simultaneously "harvests" solar energy and makes it possible to dim the window at the press of a button. Zodiac is a finalist in this category, too, with another product in the ISIS range: the Modular Lavatory, facilitating resource-friendly customisation and substitution of individual bathroom and lavatory modules where, conventionally, only standardised complete systems could be installed and removed.

The "Passenger Comfort Hardware" category also features a lavatory project amongst the finalists: The aircraft toilet developed by Diehl Comfort System is operated with movement sensors, requiring no contact, making it especially hygienic. This could be a persuasive selling point for passengers from the Far East. The other finalists in the category are two economy class aircraft seats from German manufacturers: Recaro submitted the ergonomic, lightweight CL3710 seat with extra knee room, and ZIM Flugsitz responded with the EC-00 seat for short and medium-haul flights, including a new, patented table and backrest concept.

The "Premium Class & VIP" category features seats from the more expensive classes. Finalist Thales Avionics has submitted a genuinely futuristic product, Immersive Business Class Seat, with a screen and surround sound system covering nearly 360° that makes passengers almost forget that they are in a plane. The concepts from the two other competitors, meanwhile, concentrate on the connection between personal space and the cabin. Paperclip Design from Hong Kong presents an innovative solution, the Convertible Long Haul Seat Concept, a seating area that can be converted from Premium Economy to a Full-Flat Business Option in next to no time. Zodiac Aerospace has developed the Premium Cabin, which avoids space-hungry gaps and partition walls and not only creates more space for every single passenger but even allows room for an on-board bar.

The US subsidiary, Zodiac Galleys, impressed the Judging Panel in the "Material & Components" category with an airbag system for the cabin wall, rushing out to protect passengers in an emergency. The space-saving innovation avoids the need for the complex and uncomfortable installation of airbags in the seatbelt. British company Specialist Aviation reached the final round with a solution for minor material damage. The SATTO plastic glue allows minor repairs to cabin components to be carried out in 30 minutes without applying any heat. The third player in the ring is German glass-maker Schott with an innovative lightweight glass structure for cabin windows, not only more resistant than conventional window plastic but also making significantly larger panes possible.

The "University" category has progressed in leaps and bounds, with submissions from five different countries this year. And two entrants from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have reached the final. With "Sense the Transitions", a team of female students presents an innovative in-flight entertainment concept where infographics and videos about the culture, history, and nature of the areas of the earth the aircraft is flying over are projected onto the backrest of the seat in front. And a fellow student is presenting the ARC Seat Concept, an innovative aircraft seat that can withstand stresses up to 16G. The longest journey of any of the finalists comes from Monash University in Australia, with a concept for wheelchair boarding. A perfectly fitting seat module is pushed through the cabin to the relevant row and anchored there without the passenger having to stand or leave the seat.

All of the finalists' products and concepts will be presented in the Crystal Cabin Award Gallery (Hall B1, Booth A41) at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg (8 - 10 April, 2014) And on the second day of the trade fair (9 April, 11 a.m.), the winners will personally present their concepts to the public.

The official crowning of winners and presentation of trophies will take place the evening before at a formal dinner.

 

The Crystal Cabin Award 2014 is supported by the following sponsors:    
Airbus, Aircraft Cabin Management, the Aircraft Interiors Expo trade fair (Reed Exhibitions), Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, the Aircraft Interiors Middle East trade fair (AIME), APEX, Bishop, DIEHL Aerosystems Holding, Embraer, FERCHAU AVIATION Division, Jetliner Cabins, KYDEX LLC and Zodiac Aerospace.