Back in June, Greg Whitaker reported on the Crystal Cabin Awards. In case you missed the coverage in Aircraft Cabin Management Magazine at the time, here’s a rundown of who won what
The annual Crystal Cabin award ceremony took place at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg in June, bestowing the trophy on seven winners.
The international event is organised by the Hamburg Board of Trade and is the only awards event of its type that celebrates both passenger cabin design and innovation. The organisers have strict criteria for choosing the companies that make the shortlist and for selecting the winners, and just being nominated is considered a major honour.
Winners were chosen by 28 specially selected judges from across the industry who cast their expert eyes on the entries ahead of the ceremony.
Cabin Concepts Award
Winner: Air New Zealand ‘Skynest’
Economy class and lie-flat beds don’t normally go together, but Air New Zealand has introduced exactly that on long-haul routes.
Skynest is a lie-flat ‘rest experience’ that passengers can buy time on while onboard for up to four hours. A stand-alone monument on the main deck of the aircraft comprises six bunks for economy passengers to stretch out on.
The airline hopes that the offer will improve the flying experience for passengers and help build brand image to boot.
Developing the project wasn’t easy – the airline’s Head of Aircraft Programmes Kerry Reeves commented that making the idea work was a ‘labour of love’.
After receiving the award, he said: “As it’s a world first, there are plenty of hoops we need to jump through and problems we need to solve, but the popularity and excitement around it coming to market is what keeps us going”.
This isn’t Air New Zealand’s first win at the Crystal Cabin Awards. It previously won in 2019 for the ‘Skycouch’, which adds an extra footrest to a standard seat that folds to form a couch.
Health & Safety Award
Winner: Teledyne Controls ‘ACES’
California-based Teledyne Technologies has secured the 2023 award for a product that allows operators to monitor air quality in the cabin more effectively than ever before, with benefits for passenger safety and wellbeing.
ACES monitors several parameters in real-time and relays the data directly to ground stations. It uses laboratory-standard sensors to check airborne particulates, gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone, and volatile organic compounds.
While the system provides new insights into cabin air quality, the jury also lauded ACES’ ability to reduce airline maintenance costs and aircraft downtime by allowing operators to validate repairs on-board with no additional sensor systems required.
Passenger Comfort Award
Winner: Collins Aerospace ‘Intelisence’
Artificial Intelligence seems to be everywhere these days, and the aircraft cabin is set to be no exception.
Intelisence from Collins Aerospace uses developments in the field – and a lot of sensors in the cabin itself – to predict how passengers are likely to behave in order that the crew can serve their needs, even before the call button is pressed.
For example, the system might be able to tell if a passenger’s drink is empty, which would enable the flight attendant to offer (or sell) them a refill.
On a more utilitarian note, the system can also be used for predictive maintenance and can alert ground crews to secure replacement parts, even while the aircraft is flying.
Collins Aerospace is no stranger to the Crystal Cabin Awards. This year alone it won two categories and was shortlisted for three, and it has won a total of thirteen awards since the foundation of the event in 2007.
IFEC and Digital Services Award
Winners: AirFi, and Iridium ‘LEO Connectivity Solution’
Connectivity was a trend in submissions in 2023, reflecting heightened passenger expectations of internet services in the air and also the will of the industry to offer a new connectivity experience closer to services on the ground.
The LEO Connectivity Solution developed jointly by AirFi and Iridium proved interesting to the jury of industry experts. Invisible to the passenger, the LEO Connectivity Solution connects to the Iridium Certus system using a pen-sized antenna housed in the window frame that costs substantially less than typical broadband antenna hardware.
The system offers added connectivity for both passengers and crew; travellers can contact those on the ground using WhatsApp and iMessage, while the crew can access ACARS transmissions or validate credit card payments.
Winner: Lantal Textiles “Deep Dyed Carpet”
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of reducing environmental impact in the aircraft interiors industry now. Fortunately, some suppliers are turning that talk into action.
This year, the award goes to Deep Dyed Carpet by Lantal Textiles. The winning entry shows potential to improve the ecological footprint of aircraft cabins in multiple ways, saving not only 60 per cent of water and 80 per cent of waste during production but also aircraft weight and thus CO² emissions.
At the same time, the carpet can feature designs bespoke to the customer. To achieve this, Lantal Textiles devised a new digital deep dyeing technology for carpets.
Given the importance of sustainable design, it is perhaps surprising that this award category is relatively new to the award roster, having been presented for the first time in 2022.
Winner: Technical University of Delft ‘Lightweight Aircraft Seating’
Designed to offer students a forum for imaginative clean-sheet designs, the University category is one of the most innovative areas of the Crystal Cabin Awards.
This year, the honour is awarded to a team from the Technical University of Delft for Lightweight Aircraft Seating which has somehow managed to 3D-print a seat cushion.
As this lightweight seat cushion is 3D-printed using sustainable fibres, it reduces the amount of material needed to produce it while supporting the passenger’s body in an optimal way, and at the same time reducing the weight of each seat and the aircraft overall.
Cabin systems, Materials and Components
Winner: CollinsAerospace ‘Q-tech’
Regular sound deadening usually contains a core of material that resembles a honeycomb.
However, engineers at Collins have devised a new type of noise-proofing that it says can be ten times more effective at reducing noise transmission when compared with a standard double‑wall panel.
The product looks physically different, with the honeycomb being replaced by what Collins calls ‘bulb arrays’. These are rows of small oblong structures that made us think of those little pods used in coffee machines.
However, these arrays are made from a modern recyclable thermoplastic metamaterial and are designed to be used to mitigate specific problem noises – such as in headrests, sidewalls, seats and galley equipment.
Everyone’s a winner
These days, everyone in the industry is talking about sustainable design – and even the Crystal Cabin trophy itself is now made from recycled materials.
The award is manufactured by Fraunhofer IPT and the polymer-based processes and materials used to make it will soon be used for a new generation of sustainable cabin components, helping to reduce emissions from the aircraft cabin industry.
It wasn’t just the winners that impressed at the Crystal Cabin Awards. Such was the quality of this year’s entries, any one of the products and concepts that made it to the shortlist could have scooped the prize. Here’s our pick of our favourites:
Cabin Concepts Award
Shortlisted: Diehl Aviation ‘Crew Rest Compartment’
For narrow body aircrafts in long range operation, there is a need for the crew members to regenerate, to rest and stretch out.
Diehl has a concept module that uses the space between the first passenger seat row and the door area for a stowage module with integrated foldable elements.
These elements fold down on top of the cabin attendant seats (CAS), using them as static substructure to build up two full flat beds.
For boarding and evacuation, the beds can be folded up and pushed back into the stowage module in seconds.
Health and Safety Award
Shortlisted: CTT Systems ‘Onboard Pure Air’
A design that reduces fumes in the cabin from ground operations such as fuelling and de-icing as well as aircraft bleed air during flight, the Onboard Pure Air system adds an active carbon filter to the existing humidifier pads in the aircraft, and so using the same space envelope. This has the advantage of not adding anything to the ECS system, nor to service or logistics requirements.
Shortlisted: Technical University of Delft ‘Alba seating concept’
Another innovative seat design from the University of Delft, the Alba is proof that ‘less is more’ when it comes to ergonomic concepts.
Constructed from an aviation-certified netting material, it reminded us of one of those modern office chairs that contours itself to the user’s form. On a more practical note, each individual seat weighs just 7.5kg and is 17mm thinner than the industry standard design.
IFEC & Digital Services
Shortlisted: Skyted, PriestmanGoode, Airbus Development & European Space Agency’s ‘noise-cancelling mask’
Having a mask in the shortlist might seem like a sign of the anxious times that we’ve all lived through, but back in 2018 when Airbus asked “How could cabin noise be muted if 300 passengers all took a phone call at the same time?”, French start-up Skyted got together with design agency PriestmanGoode and the European Space Agency to develop a face mask which works like a noise-cancelling headphone, but for the mouth. A bone-conducting microphone enables users to make calls with the mask on and not be heard by their neighbouring passengers.
Currently in a kickstarter funding phase, the device is as likely to be of as much interest to office workers and call centres as it is to aircraft buyers.