Aircraft Interiors Expo 2017 – Three days full of future flight experience

The Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) 2017 in Hamburg, the trend and developments trade fair for aircraft interiors, is already over. This year’s AIX focused on the passenger and his (digital) flight experience. I spent three days on a tour of discovery and adventure.

Taking place yearly in Hamburg since 2002, the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) is the largest trade fair for cabin outfitting and aircraft interior design with its 18,400 professional visitors. I was on-site for three days with ARTS at the Hanse Pavilion and presented, along with the exhibition team, the newest ARTS cabin interior projects, such as the A380 Door Modification. Fortunately, I also had enough spare time to look around the fair myself, so that I could experience the cabin design, in-flight entertainment and services of tomorrow, today. 

Crystal Cabin Awards – which trends are miles ahead?

The Crystal Cabin Award (CCA) is the Oscar of the cabin interior world and nowadays a prestigious seal of quality for innovations in the interior design of aircrafts. They are awarded yearly at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX). All up there are seven categories, in which the manufacturer, airline carriers, innovators and emerging talents can win awards: Cabin Concepts, Cabin Systems, Electronic Systems, Greener Cabin, Material and Components, Passenger Comfort Hardware and University. In 2017, “and the CCA goes to…” was announced for the 11th time, and with 85 competitors from 21 countries, the competition was tougher than ever before.

Winner: Cabin Concepts, Cabin Systems, Electronic Systems

The honored cabin concept by Delta Air Lines will be built for the first time in the Airbus A350. The “Delta One Suite”, in which the cabin area in the business class of Delta Air Lines is separated by screens, offers its passengers a piece of luxury.

In the field of cabin systems, Diehl Aerospace prevailed, who developed the concept of “Power Line Communication” together with Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. According to Diehl, in the future data streams can also be led through power cabling which is already available in aircrafts, thus saving the use of additional cabling. The concept promises significantly lighter planes.

The Entertainment-Portal by Global Eagle Entertainment won in the category “Electronic Systems”. The portal follows a wholly integrated approach, allowing passengers to surf the internet, watch movies and read magazines on their smartphones. 

 Delta One Suite © Delta Air Lines

 Diehl Aerospace booth at AIX 2017 © ARTS

Winner: Greener Cabin, Material and Components, University

With the ReTrolly, Airbus is pursuing the principle of the “Green Cabin” and won in this category with a simple concept: using the ReTrolley the cabin crew can recycle and compress accrued rubbish already as they walk through the cabin. The rolling recycler is incidentally a product of “Airbus BizLab”, the global program helping start-ups to accelerate innovations in aviation.

There is a new discovery to deal with the long and quite strenuous time spent sitting in a plane – the Octaspring concept by Vanema and Boxmark. They were successful in the category “Material and Components”. The foam springs being used in the Octaspring-concept for aircraft seats evenly distribute the weight of the passenger and ideally adapt to the sitting passenger.

The Smart Onboard Wheelchair is an invention of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW) and won in the “University” category. The innovation is aimed at barrier free flying. The moveable aircraft seat allows wheelchair users to fly independently. Thanks to a specially formed seat, wheelchair users can independently visit the on-board toilet.

Winner: Passenger Comfort Hardware

The “Smart Cabin Reconfiguration” from Airbus and Recaro are the winners in the Passenger Comfort Hardware category. The innovative, flexible seat track concept generates, when required, more space between the rows of seats.

Passenger Experience – Aircraft Interior becomes an experience

Especially the point mentioned last, passenger comfort as well as relating thereto individuality, was direct focus of many exhibitors at this year’s AIX. In order to respond to passenger needs as individually as possible, airlines have to open up to internet usage also during the flight and provide on board entertainment. Panasonic marketing executive John Norris told, that “in five years, internet on board will be the norm.”

The British company Inmarsat, who are operating a mobile telephone service via satellite, and Telekom want to combine the LTE-signals from around 300 ground stations and satellites together to make internet available above the clouds. 

This ambitious goal enables several devices on board to be connected to the web within a small space simultaneously. If each guest is now bringing his smartphone, tablet and/or laptop along, there must be the possibility to charge devices at every aircraft seat. For instance, the firm Astronics introduced their Wireless Charging Module at AIX, which makes inductive charging possible on the folding table.

As soon as a quick internet connection is available in all aircrafts, the possibilities are endless: passengers’ devices are directly connected with the on-board entertainment and they can follow the content they want throughout the flight with their streaming services.

Lufthansa announced at AIX, that they are currently equipping eight medium-haul aircraft a week with internet functionality. To do that, a satellite antenna is fixed to the roof of the aircraft and the on-board cabling technology laid out. This modification takes about four days and enables online passenger services like live weather broadcasting, real time data transmission of flight information and much more. The model from Lufthansa Technik called “niceview Mobile”, which has been on the market since 2016, already enables the linking of flight and device, so that the trip can already be tracked before take-off via interactive maps made up of 3D satellite images.

With their product, Flight Scout, Philotech is not only focusing on digitalisation, but is also looking at modern device control concepts. The flight data, as 3D-map material, can be controlled by gestures and body movements, also allowing for a small “workout” while sitting.

For the moment only being a prototype, Philotech also enables the control of a TV-Flatscreen through eye movements – I am curious, what you will be able to control on a plane in this way in the near future. 

 Body movements control the Flight Scout from Philotech © ARTS

The future of aircraft cabins: connectivity and technology

The innovations presented at AIX offer a small taste of what passengers could encounter in aircrafts very soon and I am curious what aircrafts will look like in five or ten years. One thing is for certain – also above the clouds we will all soon be connected and be able to access our content and data. In the near future aircraft maintenance and modification work, like ARTS is carrying out, will increase in complexity due to these new technical advancements. Service providers for the aviation industry must be better informed, specialised and certified also in these areas. ARTS is looking forward to those new challenges. I am already looking forward to AIX 2018, where ARTS will participate as an exhibitor as well as a professional visitor.

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