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All things SPICE

How has Airbus’s SPICE galley project progressed over the last year?

SPICE (SPace Innovative Catering Equipment) has been making steady progress during 2010. For the first time mock-ups and demonstrators were shown to a wider audience at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany (18-20 May 2010) and Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas in Long Beach, USA (14-16 September 2010). We took these opportunities to seek further input from its customers and gauge their level of interest in the new galley concept.

How are airlines reacting to the idea?

Of 44 airlines surveyed, 98% rated SPICE more highly than today’s galleys and 67% stated it was “very necessary” to update galley designs. Airlines rated SPICE ergonomics even more highly than the hundreds of kilogrammes of weight savings plus the extra seats that it would bring to wide-body aircraft. IATA took the initiative in mid-2010 to survey its member airlines and caterers worldwide to determine the level of interest in the broader issue of galley standardisation. 87% of IATA member airlines surveyed considered standardisation to be a goal worth pursuing and this view was supported by 96% of caterers. When asked whether the industry is ready to face this challenge, in each case a clear majority of respondents think we are. Of course the devil lies in the detail, and it is of prime importance for airlines to continue to be innovative in the inflight service they provide.

Have you trialled the concept recently?

The SPICE team spent most of last year deep in the details, but this effort culminated in December 2010 with the first full-scale cabin service trials in Toulouse, France. Over one week, 13 specialists from eight airlines (including Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Air France and KLM) used our newly built SPICE Full-Scale Test Facility, which includes a Door 4 galley inside an A330 fuselage, a complete economy cabin, and a geometrical mock-up of a catering truck. A range of tests were completed, including the first application of a SPICE training programme and tests for cabin security during turbulence, with the week culminating in a complete meal and drinks service to a cabin full with 200 people. The main goal of these trials was to give the airline community hands-on experience of using the SPICE galley to complete typical tasks in a realistic environment. We wanted to go through a complete meal service, to get validation from airline cabin crew of the SPICE galley architecture and processes.

What did you learn from the trial?

We proved the value of using items that have been pre-prepared on the ground, such as the Beverage Box. The preparation for drinks service took just over five minutes. Today, this can take around 20 minutes, so SPICE brings a major improvement. There was a 50% reduction in food preparation time when compared to industry standards. We also got excellent feedback on training, with the majority of participants telling us that it was easy to learn how to use SPICE. On the ergonomics side feedback was very clear that SPICE is better. Finally, we got a resounding thumbs-up for our proposal on handling the equipment during turbulence.

Are there any tweaks that can be made?

As one would expect for a concept still under development, the airlines could still find room for improvement. The benefit of doing these kinds of trials is that you learn so much from the end users. We had a brilliant atmosphere of cooperation among the airline participants and they were very straightforward with us about what they liked and disliked. So now we have a really valuable list of ideas for making SPICE even better. With the number of items remaining to validate getting smaller and smaller, 2011 is shaping up to be a big year for SPICE.

Airbus believes SPICE has the potential to become the first new industry-wide standard for galleys in over 40 years. It plans to make it available for deliveries early next decade.
To save weight, the concept puts today’s standard meal trays into lightweight boxes instead of trolleys. Foldable Service Carts are then used to transport the boxes during passenger service. The design of the boxes, galleys and equipment is harmonised to use space in the most efficient and modular way. With these changes, Airbus says SPICE can save 400-600kg of weight and enough space to gain two to three economy seats on a typical wide-body aircraft seating 250-300 passengers. SPICE also offers equipment to segregate waste for recycling; and plug and play galley equipment to enable airlines to implement route-specific menus or adapt catering to changing tastes. Another advantage for crew is the elimination of lifting heavy boxes.

* This interview was conducted in March 2011 *


15 March 2011


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