The 2017 Dubai Airshow was the venue for the launch of Emirates’ new cabin interior for some of its Boeing 777-300ER fleet.
The initial inspiration for the new cabin interior came from a 2014 visit by a team from Emirates to Mercedes-Benz designers at a design workshop at Woburn Abbey in the UK. This provided an opportunity to see some of the company’s prototype cars, including the new S-Class, which was then under development.
Some of the features that have made it into the cabin include soft leather seating, stitching patterns, control panels and mood lighting, although subsequent inputs have come from Pierrejean Design Studio, Teague and Boeing.
The upgrade will be installed on 15 Boeing 777-300ERs that are the last to be delivered from a 2006 order for 150 aircraft. Two aircraft were delivered in November with the new interior, it having been installed on the line at Boeing. The remaining 13 aircraft will follow the same procedure.
Services were launched in December between Dubai, Brussels and Geneva, and nine aircraft should be in service by the end of 2018.
It might seem surprising that such a major upgrade should be fitted to such a small number of aircraft but Emirate’s president, Tim Clark, says it will be the template for the future, although some of the technologies, such as IFEC and power supplies, may yet change.
That means elements will reappear in some of the 46 Airbus A380s still to be delivered, as well as in 150 Boeing 777Xs due from 2020 and 40 787-10 Dreamliners from 2022.
For the 777-300ER, the configuration is 6F/42C/306Y (no premium economy).
The main feature of the first-class cabin interior is the six fully enclosed 3.7m² private suites, laid out in a 1+1+1 configuration, each of which has a two-metre high floor-to-ceiling door. These were designed in collaboration with Boeing, Rockwell Collins Interior Systems (which is supplying the seats in all classes), Pierrejean Design Studio, Panasonic, and Teague.
The seat is up to 30in wide and reclines from an upright position to a 78in fully flatbed. The electrically-operated leg rest, backrest, headrest, armrest, seat frame, leg rest extension and seat pan extension enable the seat to convert to a ‘zero-gravity’ setting inspired by NASA technology.
The seats also convert to pre-set positions (upright, dining, lounge, bed lounge or bed) or to any intermediate position to suit personal preferences.
These are adjusted using what Panasonic Avionics calls a next-generation mode controller. This is a slim tablet with a 13in capacitive touch screen and offers wifi, Bluetooth, an HD camera, a microphone and a speaker.
It is also used to control the airline’s IFE system, ‘ice’, which comprises a 32in HD LCD screen with ultra-wide viewing angles, a touch screen and an LED backlight; the suite’s chandelier-style lights; and its temperature.
The camera allows passengers to make room service video calls to communicate in real-time with the cabin crew, as well as to set the Do Not Disturb mode.
In addition, a wireless handset control has been inspired by the smooth curves of a pebble, which fits naturally in the palm of a passenger’s hand. It allows untethered control over the ‘ice’ entertainment system, affecting a comfortable feeling of a ‘home TV experience’.
The handset offers a full set of buttons for interactive navigation and control over volume, lights, the inflight TV and calling over flight attendants, as well as putting the system to sleep.
The sleep button is unique in its convenience, as passengers simply have to press a single button to go to sleep mode and it only takes a second press to restore full functionality to the suite.
A panel beside the seat controls the in-suite mood lighting, which has 10 ambient settings and seven different colour schemes.
There is ample space for work, reading or dining, with a work desk and pull-out dining table measuring 74cm x 48cm. A special insert within the desk features stationery, as well as Byredo skincare products and fragrances. A cocktail table also extends from the suite console.
In both first class and business class, a new HD Premium seat box supports noise-cancelling audio jacks. The seat box has an almost 20% higher graphics performance compared to other IFE system types.
A new slim seat power module, with reduced weight and a thinner profile, provides high power DC voltage to a new, single USB Type-C jack and the existing USB Type-A jack.
Storage space includes a full-length wardrobe, overhead stowage, baggage storage in the seat armrest and extra space below the TV for bags or shoes.
There is a personal mini-bar with refreshing drinks and snacks while a video call feature allows customers to order room service.
Private suites in the middle row have virtual windows – a feature exclusive to Emirates – using external cameras.
The new cabin interior also uses a new palette of colours featuring soft greys, cream and champagne, delivering an open and airy feel.
The signature feature of the new cabin interior is the illuminated Ghaf tree on the front of the first centre suite in the Door 1 area. The Ghaf (Prosopis cineraria) is the national tree of the UAE and the design, originating from Boeing and Teague, has been further developed by the AIM Altitude design team in New Zealand.
It has been manufactured by AIM Altitude Cabin Interiors in Bournemouth, UK, with help from the Isovolta Group in Germany.
The artwork was cut into the custom woodgrain finish laminate before it was applied to the panel. The scale of the backlighting required considerable development with meticulous selection and arrangement of hidden LED lights to achieve an even illumination of the image.
These are controlled by the cabin mood lighting system, to allow the operator to customise the lighting scene colour. Using a combination of pinhole LEDS and mood lighting, the feature can be transformed into a desert scene at night, complete with a starry sky.
The specification also required a ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign that was invisible when not in operation, with AIM Altitude sourcing a lens material that provided a ‘dead front’ appearance.
The leaf pattern from the tree is repeated throughout the cabin, as a decorative motif and as perforations in screens.
The biggest surprise in business class cabin interior is the 2+3+2 configuration, as a middle seat is more than a little unusual, especially as the older 777-200LR fleet is switching to 2+2+2 (see below).
However, there are privacy panels between the seats. The automotive influence is strongest in this cabin, where the 20.5in wide seats have a diamond stitch pattern in the leather cover. However, while the woodgrain finish on the seat surrounds resembles the fascia of a high-end car, it is not a feature of the S-Class.
The seats are set at 72in pitch and recline to a 78in long lie-flat bed. There is an adjustable headrest, an electronically operated footrest and lumbar support. Once again, there is a personal mini-bar. The new 23in capacitive touch screen Full HD Smart Monitor is the largest monitor size in business class across the Emirates fleet. It includes HDMI ports and screen capabilities.
The seat also features several personal lighting options and a shoe stowage area.
The 306 economy class seats are deployed at 33in pitch in a 3+4+3 configuration with 2+4+2 in the last row. They recline by 6in and have 17.05in wide cushions. Full leather headrests have flexible side panels and can also be adjusted vertically for optimum support. Leather and fabric combination seat covers are upholstered in a new colour palette of soft greys and blues. New slimmer, smaller ‘Super Eco’ Economy Monitors – that weigh 35 per cent less than previous models – offer ultra-wide viewing angles, a capacitive touch screen, an LED backlight and full HD display.
They also incorporate high-power USB-A/C jacks, Bluetooth technology, a high-resolution camera, 3D multiplayer gaming and an integrated audio connector. A new thinner and lighter (weighing 22% less) power module provides power for IFEC equipment and peripherals to up to four seats, including USB Type-C and Type-A charging ports for each passenger.
Emirates also plans to modify the cabin interior of 10 Boeing 777-200LR aircraft. These currently have 266 seats (8F/42C/216Y) but first class will be removed, with business class converted from a 2+3+2 configuration to 2+2+2, and the number of seats increased to 302, although the split between business and economy has not yet been revealed.
While the focus has been on the Boeing 777-300ER, the airline has also been busy with the upcoming 777X, for which it was the launch customer in July 2014, when it placed an order for 150 aircraft, plus 50 options. First delivery is scheduled for 2020.
Thales, which will supply its AVANT inflight entertainment system for the aircraft, will also provide high-speed broadband inflight connectivity using Inmarsat‘s GX network. Esterline Avionics Systems will supply its CMC CMA-2200SB intermediate gain antenna (IGA), which supports passenger and crew communications, and weighs just 3kg with the lowest drag of any top-mount antenna.
Connectivity on these aircraft is provided by SITAONAIR, which has just extended its connectivity partnership with Emirates for a further four years, covering 279 A380 and 777 aircraft. The new contract covers Internet ONAIR on the 777 fleets, and Mobile ONAIR and Internet ONAIR on all A380 aircraft.
The Mercedes-Benz S‑Class that inspired the business class cabin will now be used for the chauffeur-driven service provided to first-class passengers for door-to-door transfer to and from Dubai Airport (for 17C924_01.jpg or 17C924_03.jpg) – use at any point.
Emirates has worked with 3D Systems, a US-based 3D printing equipment and material manufacturer and services provider, and with UUDS, a European aviation engineering and certification office and services provider based in France, to successfully print the first batch of 3D printed video monitor shrouds using 3D Systems’ Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology platform.
This technology uses lasers to bind together powdered plastic into the required shape defined by a 3D model and differs from the fusion deposition modelling (FDM) technique normally used for 3D printing aircraft parts.
The material used to print Emirates’ video monitor shrouds is a new thermoplastic developed by 3D Systems – DuraForm ProX FR1200 – with excellent flammability resistant properties and surface quality suitable for commercial aerospace business applications.
One of the major advantages of using the SLS technique is the reduced weight of printed components, combined with optimisation of the strength of the parts produced. Video monitor shrouds that are 3D printed using the SLS technique can weigh between 9-13 per cent lighter than components manufactured traditionally or through the FDM technique.
This has the potential to lead to significant reductions in fuel emissions and costs when consolidated over the entire fleet of Emirates aircraft.
Additionally, with the SLS technique, it is possible to print more than one component at a time, contrasted with other 3D printing methods. This leads to quicker per-part production times and lesser wastage of raw materials used for production.
Emirates’ 3D printed video monitor shrouds have undergone a range of structural, durability, flammability and chemical tests, and are also in the process of receiving EASA certification for airworthiness for aircraft interior cabin parts.
Upon receipt of EASA certification, the video monitor shrouds will be installed on select aircraft in the Emirates fleet and will be tracked over subsequent months for data collection as part of tests for onboard durability and wear and tear.
Emirates has also worked with UUDS to develop 3D printed air vent grilles for aircraft cabins which have received EASA certification and have already been installed on aircraft for onboard trials in late October 2017.
Using 3D printing will also deliver a number of other benefits for Emirates, including more efficient inventory management for thousands of aircraft cabin interior components. With the airline being able to print components on demand within a smaller timeframe, it will no longer have to hold a large inventory of spare components or submit to long wait times for replacement components.
The airline will also continue to pursue other opportunities for introducing 3D printed components across its operations.