In recent years, airliners and suppliers have focused on increasing passenger comfort while at the same time seeking to reduce cabin weight and deliver cost savings. Indeed, announcements at the 2009 Paris Air Show have focused on these themes. The news then that France’s oldest jeweller, the House of Mauboussin, was setting up a new firm to design the interiors of corporate jets was a striking sign that even in the depth of the global economic downturn, there is still plenty of demand for luxury business jets.

House of Mauboussin head Patrick Mauboussin announced at the 2009 Paris Air Show, held between 15 and 21 June, that he was partnering with European business jet operator Masterjet to create a new company, Patrick Mauboussin Aircraft Design (PMAD). Although a step away from the jewellery sector, the deal renews Mauboussin’s long-held links to the aviation industry as his family was behind the Mauboussin M120 Corsaire and Fouge Magister trainers developed either side of World War Two.

PMAD will provide interior and exterior design services to companies in the aviation sector. The jeweller’s first project is a ‘Nile Spirit’ paint scheme for Masterjet’s A320 corporate jet, which is configured to carry 26 passengers, and includes a lounge and bedrooms. Mauboussin says his aim is to ensure that passengers feel rested and refreshed after their journey. “Comfort, peace of mind, body relaxation as well as confidentiality are so essential that they are studied as seriously as any other detail to ease the journey,” he says.

“Suppliers are focused on increasing passenger comfort while at the same time seeking to reduce cabin weight.”

Mauboussin says that jewellers’ expertise and ability in attending to the smallest detail can be used in aviation to satisfy demanding customers, while Masterjet president Philip Queffelec says he expects clients to benefit from an approach that maximises the use of even the smallest areas of space.

ATR increases interiors range

Meanwhile, French regional aircraft maker ATR, which announced a host of new orders during the show, said that it is planning to boost its competitiveness by offering customers a wide range of interior options for its executive aircraft. In the past, the company has not focused on the corporate market but it now plans a foray into that sector.

ATR marketing vice president Mario Formica says the turbo corporate sector has grown by 75% in the previous five years and that 67% of corporate flights lasted less than 90 minutes, making them ideally suited for turboprop aircraft.

Formica says that ATR plans to form partnerships with suppliers that already provide interiors to makers such as Embraer, Bombardier and Gulfstream. In addition, the company plans to devise a standard VIP version but also provide a catalogue of interior options enabling customers to select particular equipment.

Qatar focuses on entertainment

The Qatar Airways $1.9bn order for 24 Airbus A320s is one of the biggest placed at the show and the aircraft will feature some of the latest advances in interior design and technology, according to the airline.

Most notably, the aircraft will be fitted with the Thales in-seat audio / video on-demand in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.

“PMAD will provide interior and exterior design services to companies in the aviation sector.”

Qatar Airways hopes to provide passengers with a comprehensive audio and video on-demand entertainment and information experience in all classes of service and gain a competitive advantage over its rivals.

Indeed, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker says the new system will give passengers unprecedented entertainment options.

The first aircraft are scheduled for delivery in November 2009.

Partners of integration

During the show, Thales announced that it is joining forces with Diehl Aerospace to offer an integrated solution for cabin systems, ranging from in-flight entertainment and connectivity to lighting and cabin structures. Thales and Diehl say they will be the only players in the market to offer electronic competencies along with structural and electrical expertise.

Diehl Aerospace’s Walter Fleischmann says that the partnership has identified a huge potential for cost reduction. “There are economies of scale on materials, reduction in weight and reduction in power,” he says.

Fleischmann says the cabin lining and its effect on passengers can not be underestimated. “It’s everything that makes you feel comfortable but it all goes on in the background. We aim to work to create an environment in the cabin which takes into account every element, including the IFE and connectivity systems. This will help the cabin play a bigger role for the airlines as it will help them to reflect their own brands and differentiate their product.”

“Qatar Airways’s A320s will feature some of the latest advances in interior design and technology.”

Thales Avionics vice president and general manager of in-flight systems Alan Pellegrini says “the area of IFE connectivity is not what’s in the future, it’s here now, with swift broadband, Wi-Fi, GSM and integration to the IFE.” The company has 17 customers so far. “They range from basic situational communications through to integrated TopConnect solutions,” he adds.

Thales and Diehl are steering clear of seating, however. “There are already plenty of seat manufacturers, often with a number of different seat types, and the airlines really like to make their own choices,” Pellegrini says.

Visible cost savings

Windows are an often overlooked area of cabin interiors but US-based PPG Aerospace hopes to change this by launching a new window coating in Paris that helps to keep interiors cool, leading to energy savings. PPG’s proprietary ALTEOS interactive window system allows passengers to select the amount of light transmitted through the windows from a clear state to a dark state, or an intermediate level. The ALTEOS system is designed to replace pull-down, mechanical and other types of shades for
enhanced passenger comfort, interior aesthetics and aircraft operating efficiency.

These few examples of the developments taking place at the Paris Air Show point to how the advances that are taking place inside the aircraft are as important as those taking place externally in terms of improvements to energy efficiency and fuselage design.

It is inside the aircraft where airlines can differentiate themselves from their competitors in terms of the in-flight experience they offer their customers, while at the same time delivering weight savings that can make a real difference to operational costs and profitability.