The multi-billion-dollar market for aircraft interiors covers a wide spectrum of more than 2,000 companies working in virtually any field, including in-flight telecommunications, upholstery, seating and restraints, bathrooms, IFE (in-flight entertainment) systems, interior designers and more. In short, anything high to low tech that one would expect to find on an aircraft, and in the luxury market, probably a few things that one wouldn't expect to find.

So when an event, such as the first US Aircraft Interiors Exhibition (AIX Americas) joins the conference and exhibition circuit, the industry certainly takes notice.

AIX Americas will run from 9–11 September at Long Beach, California with the theme 'Flying in the 21st Century'. Under this, speakers and panellists from airlines and the interiors industry will address the critical issues facing airlines today, including how to maximise revenue in a climate of rising fuel costs and gaining competitive advantage through the cabin interior.

“Speakers and panellists from airlines and the interiors industry will address the issues facing airlines today.”

The floor, however, is where the industry will move away from market trends and instead pay more attention to innovation. And while the show is still a little way off some companies are already talking about what's going to be on show.

Exhibiting companies

Ferentino-based IACOBUCCI HF Electronics SpA is well known for its range of double-system espresso makers, American coffee makers and tea makers which are already in use by some 50 airlines. Boeing has also been eyeing this technology for its 787 Dreamliner and by Airbus for the A380.

But at the interiors show it will be its latest product – the Hi-Fly trash compactor – that will be on display. Waste takes up precious space in an aircraft and the Italian award-winning low-level power 360VA compactor unit can apply up to 2t of pressure to compact cartons and aluminium for recycling. Two sizes are available – the full-size unit can compact and store up to 36kg of waste and the half-size unit 18kg.

Part of Saudi Arabia-based SABIC Basic Industries Corporation, SABIC Innovative Plastics is a major manufacturer of plastic resins and high-performance Lexan sheets used in a variety of industries, including aerospace. The company will be showcasing its new Lexan XHR6000 extremely-low-heat-release sheet, which will enable aircraft manufacturers to meet safety standards in aircraft interiors and enhance passenger comfort.

"With this material, it will be easier for OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and suppliers to produce attractive, lightweight and compliant interiors for the next generation of aircraft while keeping costs down," said Tammy Rucker, global product manager, Opaque Sheet, SABIC Innovative Plastics. The possible applications for Lexan XHR6000 sheet include seating, cockpit linings, windows surrounds, door shrouds and other interior components.

Another innovation on display – by Markitwise International Ltd in the UK (recently acquired by US EJ Brooks) – appeared following the 11 September attacks, after demand arose for sealed under-seat life vest stowage (LVS) that was compliant with the US Transportation Security Administration (US TSA) requirements for aircraft cabin searches.

The resulting product is the secure LVS series, which is flexible for installation while still integrating security features. Already in use by airlines and seat manufacturers worldwide, the development reflects the need for higher security inside the aircraft.

“In the current global economic climate there are plenty of challenges for the aircraft interior industry.”

Markitwise has also recently launched a series of self-adhesive tamper-evident security labels that include two types designed for overt or covert cabin applications.

Aircraft interiors are often associated with new materials. However, Andrew Muirhead and Son Ltd. working out of Glasgow, UK, has launched a luxury leather brand called Arisaig. Made from British beef cattle the leather is aimed at the corporate and high-end aircraft markets. ZIM GmbH of BadenWurttehberg, Germany, making its first public appearance at AIX Americas, will display its new lightweight economy seat, designed for single-aisle aircraft.

Flying in the 21st century

AIX Americas say that the, 'Flying in the 21st Century' theme of the exhibition will be hard hitting. Certainly in the current global economic climate there are plenty of challenges for the aircraft interior industry, some of which may perhaps be lessened by the products and services on display at AIX Americas.

The event is going to be co-located in the Long Beach Convention Centre with the World Airline Entertainment Association's (WAEA) 29th Annual Conference & Exhibition also taking place from 8–11 September.

The speaker and panel list roster for the conference side to the event is still being assembled. However, executives and experts from some of aviation's big names are already lined up to speak. These include Bob Lange, head of aircraft interiors marketing, Airbus; Tom Plant, vice-president / general manager, seating business, BE Aerospace; Charles Ogilvie, executive director China for Panasonic Avionics Systems; Tran Hang, industry development manager for North American travel sector of Google; general manager of product development at JetBlue Airways Brett Muney; Klaus Brauer, director passenger satisfaction and revenue with Boeing Commercial Airplanes as well as speakers from LAN Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines; Thompson Solutions; Boeing Commercial Airplanes and others.