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Bombardier CSeries design

 

It’s obvious really, but when a good design team is allowed access and freedom to influence all aspects of a project – including how the shape of the fuselage impacts on interior room – the potential for a more unified end result is much greater. So it would seem was the case with the Bombardier CSeries, due to the massive influence of C&D Zodiac’s industrial design and mock-up shop – now called Zeo – in developing the whole cabin.

 

The product of a long gestation, 10-12 years ago Bombardier started its research into narrow-body aircraft that could do a better job in the 100 to 150-passenger segment. As Rob Dewar, Bombardier's vice president & general manager for the CSeries, recalls: “In our opinion, the 100 to 150-seat market was not served sufficiently either by downsized Boeing and Airbus products or upsized ones from other players.”

 

With some market reports estimating the segment to be worth nearly 20,000 aircraft and US$250 billion over 20 years, it’s clearly a big target to aim at. To succeed, Dewar knew he needed an aircraft that would stand the test of time: “We wanted a cabin for the future, a platform to last two or three decades.”

 

 

Right: The CSeries mockup shown at the 2011 Paris Air Show included leather seating fitted with Panasonic seatback IFE

 

Luckily Bombardier had a clean sheet of paper to work from and a trusted design partner to work with, in the shape of C&D Zodiac, from first research right through to final production. As Scott Savian, EVP customer & product for C&D Zodiac’s cabin interiors boldly claims: “We offer complete process and product capability, from industrial design to engineering to production. It’s a unique perspective in the aero industry to be able to manage all three.”

 

Due to a good previous working relationship, Bombardier’s Dewar says the manufacturer gave C&D Zodiac the chance to apply all these skill sets to the whole CSeries cabin where normally there might be six or seven different suppliers. “We wanted a turn-key solution for the whole interior, which we believe allowed C&D the flexibility to get on with the job.”

 

 

Left: The seats are Weber 5751s

 

A great commission for C&D Zodiac no doubt, but a brave decision from Bombardier too, effectively putting all their eggs in one basket on what was to become the design firm’s first complete interior project for an OEM.

 

 

50 down to two
Starting from mid-2004, around 50 virtual cabin iterations were made including some with three rows of two seats divided by two aisles (2-2-2) and more conventional single-aisle layout with two seats on one side and three on the other (2-3). Emphasis on space maximisation and ease of passage and use by all sizes of passengers was key as Dewar only half-jokes: “I’m 6ft 1in – a 95th percentile human – so I made sure I could fit everywhere in the cabin but it was equally important that the space would work for someone only 5ft 4in too.”

 

Areas paid particular attention to included the size and positioning of the windows, seats and storage bins, the width of the aisle and even the height of the front lavatory (so taller people could stand up straight). At this stage, remarkably even the shape of the fuselage was up for discussion, before five mock-ups were built, including two radically different proposals. According to Dewar, one had a fully circular cross-section fuselage (and was the cheaper of the two options) while the other – and finally chosen configuration – was a ‘multiple-bubble’ fuselage where the overall shape was dictated by interior space. “Normally outer seats by the window are compromised,” says Dewar, “but we were able to modify the contour of the fuselage to gain two inches of extra shoulder width.”

 

Right: The economy seats are 18.5in-wide, though centre seats get an extra 0.5in 

 

Move to the middle
This lateral thinking from a passenger perspective was also applied to the seats. The middle seat on three-seater layouts is traditionally the least comfortable and therefore least desirable. And with the average human now bigger than in decades past, Bombardier decided to make the middle seat more appealing by making it wider than the two outer seats – 19in versus 18.5in. Indeed both types of new CSeries seats are significantly more spacious than regular 17in seats on regional jets. Knee room between rows has also been enhanced by 1.5in due to a newly sculpted back – previously many were straight – and the view out of the window has been improved too. Bombardier CSeries windows are bigger – expanded to 11 x 16in – offering four inches more height and an extra inch of width.

 

To enhance the view for all heights of passenger the centre of the windows has moved up by an inch, with three inches added on top and one inch at the base. Every seat row has a view of one and half windows. “Compared to conventional aircraft this is unique within the industry,” says Dewar. “Normally a few rows are compromised by the routing of the electrics.”

 

Left: Larger windows at eye level enhance the onboard experience

 

Another claimed ‘first’ for this size of aircraft is a rear lavatory with a window and a two-stage double-hinge door to allow wheelchair access. The galley areas and mood lighting were also designed to be highly customisable for individual carrier specification.

 

To aid turnaround times, the single aisle was widened, while the overhead bins above the two-seat area were made 25% bigger to accommodate three standard IATA-size 22in roller bags without a fight. Given that the trend for customers wanting to keep their baggage with them looks set to continue, Bombardier has made the bin above the three-seat section cavernous enough to take a super-sized IATA roller bag plus a standard 22in bag. This could allow carriers to charge passengers who want to take bigger bags onboard or offer the option as a free perk to business-class passengers. Covering all bases, the conventional cargo bay has also been made bigger too.

 

To benefit those not tall enough to see into the bins, the circular bucket rotates downwards about one foot, and when closed, intrudes less into the cabin to improve the feeling of space (see left). This style of bin opening has featured before on wide-body aircraft, but C&D Zodiac’s Savian says it is a ‘first’ for a narrowbody. He says such a mechanism is usually more expensive and heavier but the design team found a way to make the overall package a similar weight by making savings elsewhere. For example, the structure that supports the bin bucket is made out of lighter weight carbon fibre.

 

Integrate and optimise
Crucially, this potentially costly decision was resolvable precisely because C&D Zodiac was in charge of the design and engineering of all of the parts around the new bin rather than buying them off the shelf. Thus it could look at solving the problem in a holistic way. As Savian puts it: “Normally such parts optimisation between suppliers is very hard as effectively you have to persuade different companies to trade weight and cost. When we were pushing for this pivoting bin solution rather than a fixed one – before we’d even done our first full mock-up – where other aircraft manufacturers might have killed such an idea, Bombardier’s then EVP Gary Scott made a special effort to visit us and was convinced to push it through despite it being the potentially more expensive option at the time. As it turned out we made up the savings elsewhere later, but to have that high level executive involvement from Bombardier so early on in the project was absolutely awesome.”

 

Left: A good first impression upon boarding, with a smart floor and clean monuments

 

This joined-up design approach meant C&D Zodiac was able to integrate the lighting, air distribution and electrical systems within the overhead bin unit, creating major time saving when fitting the aircraft. “Typically these items would be treated separately as they are certified separately and involve multiple steps and many suppliers,” says Savian. “But there’s nothing to say one supplier can’t do all these things. Now when Bombardier installs the 22 bins on the CSeries all the other systems are installed with it.” Multiplied across a whole aircraft, Savian estimates this can make an install three-times as quick and involve 50-70% fewer components too.

 

Integrated is good, but couldn’t that affect assembly and maintenance issues if any of the individual parts involved fail and then become harder to reach and fix? “No, it’s actually really neat,” continues Savian. “Take the bin for example. If a light went out there that lit up the ceiling, we’ve designed it to make the light directly accessible – it’s a very quick line replacement unit. Bombardier came up with a maintenance cost target for the entire interior. It was an aggressive requirement but since we owned all the components we could optimise the overall solution not the individual one. If you want to get to the lights, wiring harness or the environmental control system when you swing the bin down you have direct access. Typically on other cabins you’d have to remove the bin first, so it’s a big win.”

 

Right: The lav was designed with disabled access in mind

 

Invention from necessity
Dewar says the project was “99% nailed down in late 2005 in terms of the cross-section” but in January 2006 Bombardier announced a ‘go slow’ on its plans due to a lack of orders from carriers. This gave the small team that remained working on the project a chance to reconsider some of its detail. Two crucial changes were new full carbon fibre wings and new Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines that Bombardier says helps make the plane much quieter and more fuel efficient – a 20% fuel-burn advantage – with up to 20% fewer CO2 and 50% fewer NOx emissions.

 

At the same time new lighter weight seats were developed that reduced the usual 11-12kg per seat to 9kg while lighter carbon fibre and other composites were implemented where previously aluminium and other metals would have been used. Dewar says Bombardier’s centre of excellence in Belfast, Northern Ireland was crucial in assisting these changes, claiming the site to be a “world leader in the use of composites”.

 

Formally re-launched in June 2008, the CSeries now offers two options: The CS100, catering for 100-125 passengers in three modular seat densities; and the CS300, able to take between 120 and 145 people, also within three configurations. The revised aircraft boasts operating costs 15% better than rivals and has upwards of 150 orders with first flights due in 2012 and first deliveries in late 2013. Boeing’s 737, Airbus’ A320 and Embraer’s E-Jet series may not be troubled by those figures today but Bombardier is now at least finally ready to challenge in the narrowbody sector with an aircraft that may yet change the game.

 

One software fits all 
“It’s crazy that nobody else does it all in CATIA,” exclaims Scott Savian, EVP Customer & Product at C&D Zodiac’s cabin interiors, believing his firm is the only design group to use 100% CATIA software (from Dassault Systems). He explains: “Up until recently it might have been considered restrictive in its creative abilities, and a little price-restrictive [for industrial design firms that do other kinds of work and don’t need to use it all the time] but CATIA surface modelling is now as good as any, and we’re committed to it. It gives us a unique advantage as the stuff our design group does goes straight to tool and engineering with no conversion and the associated ‘lost in translation’ issues of cost and time that can create. We’ve done five mock-ups with Bombardier and we really learned from those, they’re not just pretty demonstrators. How we integrate the systems behind the A surfacing is all figured out through CATIA in-house.”


New eco materials
The CSeries features two new interesting materials: one a cost saver, the other ‘greener’. C&D Zodiac’s Scott Savian says the CSeries was originally due to use more carbon fibre but C&D found it too expensive for Bombardier’s cost targets so devised a new glass composite instead for the galleys and elsewhere. “We developed some structural glass products – they’re typical composite panels but they’ve been optimised – they simulate the strength of carbon fibre without the cost and at the same weight. It’s still a composite but just an optimised glass one rather than a carbon fibre one.”

 

Another exciting product adapted for the CSeries is a recyclable thermoformed liner system to replace old phenolic composites. “It was an existing material Ford used as an automotive interior lining panel on the GT supercar,” Savian explains, “but we developed it for aircraft certification and this is its first aeronautical use. It’s super exciting as we’re actively bringing it to Boeing now. Existing liner and sidewall panels are not the prettiest products to manufacture [from an eco point of view] and eventually become landfill. We’re currently producing 100s of tonnes a year of this material but this new recyclable product should replace it in years to come.”

 

4 March 2012

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