The final stage of the world’s foremost prize for aircraft cabin innovation has got a step closer, with the finalists of the 2023 Crystal Cabin Awards having been decided. Following an initial evaluation of more than 80 entries by the expert judging panel, and a subsequent voting round, the finalists of the Crystal Cabin Awards have been selected. The finalists include everything from innovative seats to next-generation connectivity technology, air purifiers to economy-class beds.
There are 21 finalists across the seven categories: Cabin Concepts, Cabin Systems, Health & Safety, IFEC & Digital Services, Material and Components, Passenger Comfort, Sustainable Cabin, and University.
The finalists in this year’s cabin concepts category have been nicely spread across different aircraft interior zones.
Air New Zealand’s Skynest design is one of the most hotly anticipated launches. The airline’s upcoming ultra-long-haul routes will make for very long flights – around 17 hours – but the Skynest will give economy-class customers access to lie-flat bunks (six bunks are available in time slots, for a fee). The airline invested five years of research and development time into creating the Skynest bunk beds, and they are likely to be a hit when they launch in 2024. You can read more details HERE, take a video tour HERE, hear from the development team HERE, and read our interview with Kerry Reeves, Air New Zealand’s head of airline programmes HERE.
The Lufthansa Group is in the running with Allegris, a huge €2.5 billion (US$2.65bn) project, most of which is being spent on aircraft interiors upgrades throughout its long-haul aircraft fleet, from first class to economy. The programme will see around 27,000 seats installed across the group’s new widebody aircraft, including Boeing 787-9s, Airbus A350s and Boeing 777-9s, and retrofitted on the Boeing 747-8s already in service. The new cabins will be rolled out from autumn 2023, including seven types of business class seating to suit personal needs) and you can find out more in our May issue HERE.
The third finalist could be welcome news for crew on long-range narrowbody flights. The integrated Crew Rest Compartment for Single-Aisle Aircraft by Diehl Aviation is a foldable flat rest space for crew in single-aisle jets, which uses the crew jump seats as a support. A well-rested crew make for a safer and more enjoyable passenger experience.
Cabin Systems, Materials and Components
The category structure of the Crystal Cabin Awards has been amended this year, with the Cabin Systems category combined with the Materials and Components category. The new category is titled Cabin Systems, Materials and Components.
Collins Aerospace is in the running with Q-Tech, an acoustic dampening metamaterial engineered to make cabins quieter. Applied strategically as a replacement for traditional honeycomb-core panels, Collins says the material can reduce noise transmission from engines, galleys and other passengers, across a range of frequencies. Q-Tech is made of highly flexible interconnected bulb-shaped arrays, and Collins says that its tests have shown it can reduce noise transmission in the cabin by 10-times when compared to a standard double-wall panel.
Cabin accessibility for passengers with reduced mobility (PRMs) is an important topic, and the Jump Seat Duo from J&C Aero could offer a solution – and one that also saves valuable cabin space. This dual-purpose module integrates a foldable wheelchair within the crew jump seat, which crew can quickly deploy to assist PRMs, if required.
The third category finalist is Thales Avionics with its Onboard Data-Center (ODC), an IT architecture which uses a system of ‘blades’ that share storage and computing capabilities. Thales says its ODC brings web-based technologies onboard the aircraft for the first time and increases storage space by up to 10 times compared with existing IFE servers.
Health & Safety
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, passengers’ expectations of cabin health and safety have risen to new levels, although through subtler means than the proposed seat separation screens. This year the Health & Safety category shows a new trend, with all three finalists focusing on improved air quality.
Collins Aerospace is also in the running in this category, with Pothos, a cabin air ioniser designed to deodorise cabin air to levels that mimic and even exceed clean, natural outdoor conditions. The compact unit can be integrated into any enclosed space – including Environmental Control System ducts and direct passenger air systems.
Improving customer wellbeing is also the focus of CTT Systems’ contender, with its Humidification Onboard Pure Air system adding an active carbon filter to existing humidification tech to clean the cabin environment from fumes and ozone introduced via bleed air.
The final contender is Teledyne Controls with ACES, the first FAA-certified cabin environment monitoring system that continually measures a range of cabin air parameters, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone and volatile organic compounds.
Adient Aerospace has been working in cooperation with Boeing EnCore Interiors to create the Ascent Front Row Suite, a new business-class seat design for long-haul, single-aisle aircraft. The configuration eschews spatial restrictions, with the overhead bin removed (a bag can be stowed beneath the companion seat) and the seat oriented towards the window. The experience is completed with a desk, minibar and library, as well as the flat bed and companion seat.
Collins’ InteliSence intelligent cabin experience is an intuitive, integrated intelligence system that can provide cabin crew and maintenance technicians with insights and predictions to improve airline operations, premium cabin service and the passenger experience. For example, deep learning AI software and sensor technology can be used to observe passenger interactions with objects within a first or business-class suite, such as drinks glasses, plates or personal electronics, with the data is collected and communicated in real-time to service teams. With this information, crew can ensure that means passengers get refills sooner, bedding is laid quicker, and any equipment faults are remedied rapidly. Operational management can also be improved as airlines are better able to optimise power usage, proactive maintenance and on-board provisioning for every flight.
Looking at the bigger picture, the updated Airbus A350 Airspace cabin is designed to offer more space, choice and flexibility for a wider cross-section of revenue passenger areas. The A350 Airspace cabin provides room for larger galleys, a new flight-crew rest compartment in the upper crown area and a larger forward lavatory on its A350 aircraft. You can find out more in our feature HERE.
IFEC and Digital Services
Connectivity in the aircraft cabin is an ever-accelerating expectation, and the 2023 awards received numerous entries that seek to boost the passenger experience when using digital devices.
Airbus is again in the running, with its Airspace Link HBCplus, a new high-bandwidth satellite connectivity solution offered as both a line-fit and retro-fit option, which enables airlines to connect to a choice of Managed Service Providers via a new agnostic terminal and radome.
AirFi, in cooperation with Iridium, also made it to the final round with its proposed Low Earth Orbit (LEO) system. The system uses a pen-sized antenna housed in the window frame to enable IP connection to the Iridium Certus LEO system, enabling passengers to connect to services such as WhatsApp and iMessage, the aircraft to access ACARS transmissions, and airlines to validate credit card payments.
Finally, Skyted, with cooperation partners PriestmanGoode, Airbus Development, the European Space Agency Accelerator Program and ONERA, has made it to the finals with an invention that integrates a wi-fi connection into a facemask engineered to dampen the noise of the wearer’s speech. The aim of the design is to combat the increased cabin noise generated by the proliferation of video calls, which will worsen with future 5G connectivity in the aircraft cabin.
Minimising the overall ecological footprint of aviation is an increasing focus of innovators in the aircraft cabin space, especially as the Net Zero goal gains in importance.
Airbus is in the running again, this time in cooperation with Mitsubishi Chemical Group MCG and CTC GmbH. They have developed the BioMat Sidewall Panel, a thermoset resin produced from industrial biomass by-products. Its developers say that, when used with recycled carbon fibre, the resin eliminates the need for virgin carbon fibre.
Meanwhile Diehl Aviation has engineered a cabin lining with integrated vacuum insulation, offering a composite structure developed specifically to save valuable cabin energy.
The third finalist is Deep Dyed Carpet by Lantal Textiles, a digital carpet manufacturing technology claimed to be able to provide ultra-lightweight, visually customised carpeting within days, whatever the design, with substantial water and waste savings created during production.
The university category is always interesting, being a little less constrained by today’s regulations, which gives students an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and ingenuity with clean-sheet designs and unusual approaches for the passenger experience – though tempered a little by their experienced university mentors. This year, the judging panel selected three finalist entries submitted by independent teams from the same university: Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.
So this year the question is not which university will win, but rather which student. One finalist is the Alba Seating Concept by Maartje Ballemans, an ultra-light seating fixture inspired by the biological form of the human spine that uses netting as a seat fabric to lower overall mass. Meanwhile Jayneel Kiran Soni, in cooperation with Embraer, has submitted Horus, a different approach to lightweight seating designed for use on hydrogen-powered aircraft from 2030 and beyond. The third competitor, Rens Kierkels, has designed a 3D-printed cushion that optimally supports the human body to provide better seating comfort in a lightweight and sustainable product. A special mention should also be given to the students mentor at TU Delft, Professor Dr Peter Vink, chair of the department of design engineering.
The finalists will have the opportunity to present their concepts in person to the 28-strong Crystal Cabin Award judging panel (including Adam Gavine, editor of Aircraft Interiors International) at Aircraft Interiors Expo, the world’s leading trade fair for aircraft cabins (6-8 June 2023 in Hamburg). The winners of the Crystal Cabin Award 2023 will be announced on the evening of 6th June at a gala dinner at the Hamburg Chambers of Commerce.