““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Climb aboard–so to speak
While most aircraft completion and refurbishment centers these days can provide clients with a one-dimensional, computer-generated virtual cabin walk-through in various design phases, some centers now offer much more advanced 3-D virtual interiors. Others are creating real, full-scale mockups that let customers literally enter a replica of the cabin.
Gore Design Completions introduced its virtual Airbus ACJ320 cabin at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition this past spring. Wearing a heads-up-technology viewer, attendees were able to examine colors, patterns, design and layout. One visitor noted that she was able to read headlines on the Time magazine left on a coffee table.
“It’s great to offer a one-to-one perspective of scale [that] gives the user a sense of the real size of the space in a truly immersive environment,” said project designer Tim O’Hara.
Perhaps the most remarkable virtual cabin mockup is that of Lufthansa Technik of Hamburg, Germany. The company, which operates one of the world’s largest bizliner completion centers, created the mockup less for clients than for its own designers and engineers. Thanks to advanced computer graphics, a bulging digital database, infrared cameras and special glasses, the mockup (called Virtual Fitcheck) can create a three-dimensional full-scale virtual cabin. In its initial form, it allows various elements of a cabin installation to be trial-fitted in a 130-square-foot glass cube known as the Cave Virtual Environment and nicknamed with geekish humor “the cave.” Engineers, designers and airframer specialists “enter” the cave and move about freely to observe, investigate and identify problem areas more accurately than they could at a computer workstation.
While Gore and Lufthansa Technik experiment with virtual mockups, other companies are building real ones. Associated Air Center opened its new design center at Dallas Love Field this summer and the showpiece is a full-scale Boeing Business Jet cabin mockup that serves a dual purpose: It allows clients to get a better sense of size, scale and design possibilities, and it permits AAC’s technicians to check the fit of interior furnishings, bulkheads, cabinetry and other cabin components well in advance of an airplane’s arrival. The mockup allows customers to test everything from switch panels, table mechanisms and window shades to light and sound systems and video displays.
The Jet Business, an upscale retail outlet in London’s posh Knightsbridge district, also boasts a full-scale cabin mockup. [See “A New Way to Shop for a Jet,” in our February/March 2012 issue.–Ed.] The ACJ319 mockup, designed by UK-based Design Q, incorporates a conference room, a lounge and an elegant stateroom. Jet Business founder Steve Varsano says he is laying plans to open a store featuring a similar mockup in Beijing.
Perhaps the next step in creating a cabin mockup will be to appeal to senses other than the visual.
I asked one designer whether it might be a good idea to pipe into the cabin lounge that heady scent typical of a new-car interior, or have the smell of brownies baking follow visitors in a walk-through of the galley. “We hadn’t really thought of that,” she replied. “But it just might work.”