Group editor Colette Doyle talks to Recaro about the company’s connected iSeat developed in conjunction with Portuguese airline TAP, as well as reviewing Jamco’s Venture premium class product designed in collaboration with Boeing and Teague. Plus, we take a look at what is being billed as the world’s thinnest aircraft seat, elaborated by Pitch
Last November, Recaro Aircraft Seating successfully installed ‘connected’ seats on a TAP Air Portugal A321 single-aisle aircraft. Described as “a true game changer”, the BL3530 seat is the first-ever economy class seat to be designed, certified and installed as an ‘intelligent seat’. Here, Aircraft Cabin Management speaks to Recaro’s VP of strategy, products and programmes Klaus Steinmeyer about how such connectivity will change the passenger experience for the better.
What makes Recaro’s economy class BL3530 seat stand out from the competition?
The seat is equipped with numerous sensors to gather data on seat performance and generic behaviour during flight. This enables us and our partners to gain and utilise valuable information with regard to the optimisation of existing products, the design of new products and the improvement of service and comfort offerings on the part of the airlines.
How big an innovation is it in terms of aircraft seating in your opinion, and why?
This is a milestone in the history of aircraft seating and in the aviation connectivity history. As part of a pilot project, it is the first-ever economy class seat to be designed, certified and installed as an ‘intelligent seat’. It opens up completely new perspectives for us with regard to the design of our products and also to data processing; this is an optimisation of our traditional business, and the beginning of great potential for new fields of activity.
What is the biggest opportunity that the seat offers airlines?
The seat will provide invaluable insights to make air travel even safer and further enhance the passenger journey. Collected data will be analysed for future investigations, such as tracking passenger preferences and maintenance.
What are some of the challenges that using the seat might present?
The integration of sensor technology naturally also leads to an increased complexity of the product and thus to an increased susceptibility to errors with regard to the complete recording of data. No other functionalities are affected by the modifications.
What kind of modifications do you foresee being introduced in future?
In the current inflight test, we have to do the data read-out manually from a local memory on the seats. Of course, wireless data transmission would be desirable here in various stages of expansion, even a wireless read-out and evaluation in real time.
Why did you choose TAP as your partner on this seat?
Recaro Aircraft Seating and TAP Portugal have a longstanding relationship. TAP is very open to innovative ideas. We presented our ideas to them early on and they were very interested. It’s also worth noting that they met our requirements on the hardware side.
Jamco’s next big Venture
Experienced turnkey aircraft interiors integrator Jamco America recently launched its Venture premium class seat. Jamco’s reverse herring-bone business class seat is currently designed for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 777 airplanes. Its concept is said to embody the airline interiors manufacturer’s commitment to creating premium products that harmonise aesthetics, comfort and technology.
The company asserts that airlines will benefit from the Venture seat’s sleek, industrial design, specifically created with sustainability in mind. The product is made with recycled materials and is lighter than its predecessors (reducing fuel costs), easy to install and requires less overall maintenance.
“During the design process, our main goal was to maximise the passenger experience while minimising the operational costs for airlines,” says senior sales and marketing manager Jeremy Hunter. “What we’ve created is a product that is lightweight, efficient and made with fewer parts, without compromising the integrity of the seats.”
Anthony Harcup, senior director at agency Teague, which collaborated with Jamco on the design, says it was “a fantastic programme to work on together because since both [companies] have such extensive knowledge of the B787, we were able to leverage deep airframe insights.”
Harcup adds that as the architect of the B787, Teague can lay claim to having “intimate knowledge of the interiors, lining panels, attachments points and aircraft systems”. This meant that in addition to “optimising the living-space of the seat through iterative mock-ups and customer testing”, the agency was able “to utilise redundant space inside the aircraft sidewall to maximise the footwell space – unique to the Jamco product. These additional inches make an enormous difference to sleeping comfort on premium products,” he concludes.
With the Venture line, every passenger has direct aisle access, fully lie-flat seats, and seamless surroundings, including minimal trim due to the trim-less patented panel with a backshell structure made from composite material TenCate.
Other features include a capacitive touch PCU with customisable LED colours and button icons, customisable mood lighting, elegant leather upholstery, adjustable meal tray, and an 18.5-inch entertainment screen. In addition, Venture’s thoughtful design minimises weight at approximately 85 kilos per pax, making it substantially lighter than comparable models. It is currently flying on the KLM 787-10 and Air Europa 787-9 Dreamliner airplane, with additional airlines set to follow.
Pitch proposes the perfect seat
Set up in 2010, Pitch Aircraft Seating Systems is a UK-based seating supplier with a focus on innovation and high quality products. It has now launched what it describes as a “trailblazing composite seat”.
Said to offer “ultimate flexibility in economy configurations for single-aisle fleets” and co-developed as part of a grant-funded project through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) in pursuit of innovative technologies that benefit the aviation sector, the Q Ultra-Slim concept is believed to be the world’s thinnest aircraft seat yet conceived.
Utilising sustainable bio-resins in a compression moulding process to create a seat weighing just over 7kg, the project is a collaboration between Pitch and industrial design consultancy Design Q, as well as composite manufacturing and advanced engineering specialist Cecence with additional support from SHD Composite Materials, Wavelength NDT and Plyable.
Design Q was the first company to present a fixed recline seat concept at the AIX show back in 2007, with the production version fitted to passenger aircraft six years ago. Pitch has focused on further innovating its class-leading PF3000 lightweight model for high-density cabins, which provides airline customers with low cost of ownership, high durability and commonality of spare parts.
By substituting aluminium structural seat components with Fire Smoke Toxicity (FST)-compliant composite material, Pitch affirms that a short-haul Airbus A320 could reduce its operating weight by a minimum of 500kg through the replacement of existing economy shipsets with the Q Ultra-Slim version.
“This particular concept is intended to challenge the commercial aviation industry by introducing a new class of ultra slim seat without a traditional tray table. The seat questions the architecture in the cabin and the whole service aspect, while reducing the redundant weight of the aircraft and improving efficiency,” comments Pitch Aircraft Seating’s chief designer Gary Doy.
“We believe the industry needs to question some of the things we all take for granted to find new ways of reducing its impact on the environment rather than simply via a carbon-offsetting activity,” he continues.
He elaborates on how the seat came to fruition: “To achieve the radical Q Ultra-Slim design, the team sacrificed the traditional tray table with the option of integrated cup and smartphone holders. By using composite compression moulding, we can manufacture incredibly light yet strong single piece seats from more sustainable raw materials.
“The fitment is compatible with Pitch’s existing PF3000 frame, delivering optimum flexibility and an upgraded cushion system ensures a high level
“As a design-led innovator, Pitch is constantly exploring ultra-lightweight seating solutions that not only deliver leaner operations for airlines, but an improved passenger experience as well. We believe there is genuine scope for this seat to be introduced into cabins over the next few years.”
Doy finishes by noting that “one of the issues often overlooked when people talk about the impact on the environment and the sustainability of aircraft seats is the huge number of replacement parts that are consumed during the life of aircraft seats. By changing this business model and designing products that last longer, and can be easily separated for recycling, we can reduce waste and make a real difference.”