Reducing the carbon footprint, optimising costs and passenger comfort are all issues that need to be addressed simultaneously to move towards sustainable commercial aviation. With the latest cabin innovations, such as those presented by various companies at the Crystal Cabin Awards in 2022 (the world’s largest event recognising excellence in aircraft cabin design), various costs can be optimised while improving passenger comfort through the introduction of new materials, components and systems.
New innovations in cabin equipment create an attractive environment for passengers while enhancing their comfort. For example, the Thales Avionics Pulse device is a slim, lightweight power unit with dynamic power allocation that allows passengers to charge their device via USB-A, USB-C or wireless charging. Secondly, for flight crews, the concern to keep power consumption low is also addressed by Diehl Aviation’s safety feature, the Smart Lock Door, for devices such as iPads. This equipment allows the crew to use and charge these devices while storing them in a lockable door with a screen.
In terms of keeping the cabin in good condition, another innovation offered by Lufthansa Technik is the CabinSHINE maintenance process, which is designed to make repairs to cabin equipment and furniture up to eight times cheaper and nine times faster than with traditional methods. In addition to the repair options offered for the various materials, the process can also be used to repair surface damage and imperfections on aircraft furniture during short overhaul stops.
Sustainability is the central issue in many industries, but this topic is crucial in aviation. “Sustainable Cabin”, a category of the Crystal Cabin Awards 2022, has received many creative proposals to reduce the environmental footprint of aviation. For example, recycling cabin plastics is an attractive but difficult way to reduce the environmental footprint. Swedish manufacturer Diab has developed a thermoplastic manufacturing process in cooperation with AkzoNobel, Rescoll and Roctool that produces 100% recyclable panels for cabin interiors and also provides better sound insulation.
Secondly, Lantal Textiles and Olivenleder have teamed up to create a sustainable genuine leather, using a vegetable oil-based tanning process instead of chromium and petrol-based chemicals, without compromising the haptic quality. Another material with lower CO₂ emissions, not only as a consequence of weight reduction, but also during its manufacturing process, is Lufthansa Technik’s AeroFLAX prepreg. This material uses natural fibres and a biobased resin system instead of glass fibre.
This category includes innovations that will benefit passengers during their in-flight experience in their seat. Premium economy seating is one of the fastest growing sectors of the industry. ZIM Aircraft Seating has developed ZIMprivacy, a seat that improves passenger comfort and privacy in cabin. Its fixed backrest ensures that passengers behind it are not disturbed when the seat is reclined, and the mechanical reclining mechanism allows for multiple body positions and is easier to maintain than comparable electric systems.
For in-flight entertainment innovations, which is essential on long-haul flights, wearing headphones can be uncomfortable when lying down. That’s why the latest innovations to date include the Custom Sound Zone (PSZ) developed by Jamco Corporation and NTT sonority, which solves this problem by integrating speakers into the headrest. The PSZ uses wave cancellation to create a spherical sound zone around the passenger’s head, with the sound audible to the person in the seat but inaudible to others in the cabin. This greatly enhances the flying experience without headphones or cables. To take in-flight comfort a step further, Collins Aerospace offers the SpaceChiller, a personal refrigeration system that can be installed in individual business class passenger spaces, or in larger parts of the aircraft cabin (such as the galley or a catering station). The system offers passengers the luxury of cold snacks and drinks in a compact device that Collins says requires only half the power of traditional air-cooled models.