PAX International: Setting the foundation

2015-01-01 15:25

As luxury continues to find its way into the cabin, the future of interiors looks bright and flooring is no exception

The relationship between aesthetics and functionality has long been com­plicated. To create something that is functional and efficient, yet also aes­thetically pleasing can be a challenge. It is therefore understandable why there exists the misconception that functional cannot also be beautiful. Today however, with what seems to be unlimited access to technology, the relationship between the two is becoming more harmonious.

Such thinking can be applied to the inte­rior of an aircraft, specifically its flooring. At the new Airbus Customer Definition Centre in Hamburg, airlines spend days amid carpet swatches and samples evaluat­ing the overall look they want to achieve from floor to ceiling. With many airlines focusing on bringing luxury on board, specifically in its First and Business classes, flooring just might become a an aspect of a cabin’s interior worth noticing.

Guiding the way

Lufthansa Technik (LHT), also based in Hamburg, has been supplying non-electric floor path markings using photolumi­nescence since the mid 1990’s. Initially designed to meet the needs of Lufthansa German Airlines, the system’s initial design goals were to provide a substitute for the sometimes-unreliable proximity emergency lighting systems, and to also improve effectiveness throughout the entire life cycle.

Not long after gaining first in-service experience of its “Classic Green” series within the Lufthansa fleet, Lufthansa Tech­nik made the product available to other operators via retrofit programs or line-fit options with major aircraft manufacturers.

“As the product spread into the market, customer feedback was turned into prod­uct improvement and Lufthansa Technik was the very first supplier worldwide in 2005 to offer a floor-path marking sys­tem designed not only for reliability and cost efficiency, but also for a classy cabin appearance, that being the “ColourFit” Series,” says Wolfgang Sutter, Product Manager GuideU – Non-Electrical Floor Path Marking, Lufthansa Technik AG.

The major improvements of the ColourFit system were a narrower design, weight reduction and most importantly, a variety of color options that customers could choose from for a perfect fit with carpet or interior colors.

In 2010 a development program was launched at LHT that led to the latest “GuideU” Series, a non-electric floor path marking system designed new from scratch, featuring a patented elastomeric photoluminescent layer, superior aesthetics and the lowest recorded weight. The all new GuideU system entered the market in 2013.

“Aircraft floors, just like much of the rest of cabin interiors, are an important aspect of the interface between the airline and the customer,” says Sutter. “I think flooring will always be a trade-off between aesthetic design aspects and economic efficiency and that is where GuideU comes into play.”

When it comes to benefiting both pas­sengers and crew, because GuideU is typically installed flush with the carpet or galley mat surface and lightweight foam fillers are supplied with the system to adjust the height to any carpet thickness, tripping risks are eliminated and trolleys are able to run smoothly through the cabin.

“It also reduces wear and tear,” adds Sutter. “As some customers prefer having the carpet or galley mat edges covered, a flexible and easy-to-install carpet pro­tector profile is available with GuideU as an option.”

Today, some 7,000 aircraft are equipped with one of Lufthansa Technik’s non-electric floor path marking systems, with some 250 already having the newest Gui­deU on board.

This number is increasing as operators are continuously retrofitting their fleets to the latest standard and new airplanes fitted by the major airplane manufacturers are steadily leaving the factories.

Conscious carpeting

Established in 1854, German-based and family-owned flooring manufacturer ANKER manufactures carpets for heavy traffic areas, namely hotels, offices, banks, airports and aircraft.

Regarding the aviation sector, ANKER has manufactured carpets since the early 1960s, offering varieties for premium as well as low-cost carriers. The company cur­rently supplies flooring to approximately 70 airlines and aircraft manufacturers around the world, including Emirates, Lufthansa German Airlines, Thai Airways, Air New Zealand, South African and Virgin Aus­tralia to name a few.

Many of ANKER’s flooring models follow an environmentally friendly pro­duction model, such as its AIRlight ECO carpet. Developed in cooperation with yarn manufacturer Aquafil, a company known for producing first grade nylon from polymide waste (mainly fishing nets), the AIRlight ECO carpet is lightweight and durable, made with Aquafil’s Econyl yarn.

“The development process took some two to three years, but we’re now sup­plying this product to several airlines, such as Cathay Pacific, Virgin America, Germanwings, airberlin, Olympic Air, Aegean and others,” says Alexander v. Fuchs-Nordhoff, Sales Director Aircraft Carpets for ANKER.

Because the AIRlight ECO carpet was manufactured in an environmentally friendly fashion, it was created by using a reduced number of raw materials and fuel resources, reduced CO2, reduced waste and waste water, and reduced gaseous pollution. In addition, AIRlight ECO was produced from solution-dyed ECONYL fibers, which are made from up-cycled post-production and post-consumer waste.

“It was indeed challenging to create a product which had to include several components, as well as be environmen­tal friendly, lightweight, durable, easy to maintain and priced wisely,” adds v. Fuchs-Nordhoff.

The combination of the ECONYL fibers and the use of a new weaving technique render the AIRlight ECO carpet at least three times as durable as a wool carpet, and at least as durable as a traditional nylon carpet.

According to ANKER, the future of aircraft flooring looks comfortable, or at least it should.

“Weight and durability will always be important criteria for aircraft carpeting, but only to a certain extent, as passen­gers, especially those in premium areas like First Class and Business Class expect a certain degree of comfort,” explains v. Fuchs-Nordhoff.

ANKER’s AIRlight ECO carpet was recently awarded the GOOD DESIGN Award for 2014 by The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd., which pres­ents its annual GOOD DESIGN ® Awards Program for the most innovative and cut­ting-edge industrial, product, and graphic designs produced around the world.

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