Luxury interior of a Boeing BBJ with pod seats.
Boeing BBJ with pod seats.

Cabin Comforts

HOT SEATS: Innovative technologies and designs make bizjet seats more comfortable and functional than ever before.

The most important cabin amenity is arguably the passenger seat—the place where you spend most or all of the flight. How to deliver comfort there while still complying with the rule that seats be able to withstand 16Gs has vexed the ­industry since the 1980s, when the FAA drafted this crashworthiness regulation. Incongruous as it seems, you could fork over $40 million for a long-range bizjet and still be subjected to seats whose ergonomics barely surpassed those of the average church pew. But things finally are changing, thanks to the enterprising efforts of several companies. 

One such company is Lufthansa Technik, which has developed a proprietary seat structure that uses carbon-fiber construction and eschews the bulky appearance and boxy pedestal surrounds of existing designs. The structure is scalable and can trim as much as 40 pounds from the weight of a finished seat, according to Lufthansa Technik. That’s because it employs a carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer pillar that attaches to the floor and thinner, ergonomically tailored foam. The ribbed backrests attach to a spine-like structure that helps absorb and diffuse passenger loads in an accident.

The seats resulted from a three-year research program undertaken by Lufthansa Technik and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and funded by the city of Hamburg’s Department of the Economy and Innovation. Lufthansa Technik turned to Pierrejean Design for initial styling concepts that include “office,” “classic” and “lounge.” Customers will be able to choose from a variety of backrests, headrests and footrests—altogether more than 8,000 possible configurations. 

The seats are “luxurious, lightweight and space-saving,” according to Lufthansa Technik, which claims they are optimized for “working, eating and relaxing.” Options include slim armrests with a coupling system for attachments such as small tables, cup holders and tablet and laptop computers. Lufthansa Technik said it will make the seats available to the marketplace, including direct competitors to its own completion centers, beginning this year. 

For its new line of G500 and G600 business jets, Gulfstream again collaborated with seat maker RCO to come up with something innovative. Its latest seats are lighter, with a greater use of composites, including in the load-bearing structures. The controls are relocated to the inboard armrests. Sculpted pockets in the interior arms allow for more hip room. Gulfstream is still evaluating the level of technology to incorporate into the seats, but expects full electric functionality to be available.

Iacobucci HF Aerospace has also rethought the seating equation with a line of VIP shell, single, double and “super lounge” seats that it offers with various functions, styles and finishes. Its Alba single and Portofino double mechanical seats are designed for medium jets and recently made their debut on the new Piaggio EVO fast turboprop. The seats enhance comfort with features such as electromechanical operation, flexible back and headrests and extendable leg rests. 

UTC Aerospace Systems is also bringing a VIP seat design to market. It will include an environmental-control system for heating and cooling and an extensible electronic system for motorized control of recline angle, leg rest, head rest, lumbar, tracking and swiveling release, floor tracking lock and release. The seat features wireless controls compatible with smartphones and a wireless charging system for these devices. 

Tired of powered seats that break? B/E Aerospace may have a solution. The company’s new generation of networked powered passenger seats for corporate jets offer built-in fault detection and faster and smoother electro-hydraulic actuators that are quieter and more reliable than old-style electro-mechanical actuators. The actuators are off-the-shelf models from the automotive industry—the same kind used to power convertible tops on luxury cars. 

The seats link to the aircraft’s Ethernet backbone and passengers and crewmembers can control them with personal devices such as iPods. A cabin-management-system control panel can display seat status—including any maintenance faults—and can track items such as voltage, position, calibration of each actuator, core temperatures and accelerometer data. All of these metrics can be critical to any operator who needs to know how many seats are available at any given time and wants to minimize out-of-service times for an aircraft and its seats. 

Once you’ve ordered one of these new seat types, you’ll need some snazzy fabric to cover them. Green Hides Leather Studio has just the ticket with its new and expanded “Tango” line of leather, which features a hand-applied, two-tone tipped grain effect. 

Have uncomfortable seats in an older airplane? Skandia’s new seat foam may be the key to ­giving you a more comfortable flight. The company claims its “engineered comfort” foam provides both greater support and softer compression. 

CARPETS, LIGHTING AND MORENew products include an advanced humidification system, an induction oven and a steam shower.

Imagine Debby Boone singing “you light up my floor.” OK, maybe not, but Kalogridis International has devised a way to interweave fiber optics into carpet in any pattern of your choosing—anything from exit arrows and company logos to owners’ names, catchy phrases and even star maps. The lights can be programmed to flash or illuminate in almost any conceivable sequence or pattern.

Kalogradis recently designed a fiber-optic ­spider web into the floor carpeting of a Gulfstream G650. The company also is experimenting with fluorescent yarn that gives the floors of dark ­cabins a luminescent glow. No word on whether you can synchronize the light patterns to music on your in-flight entertainment system, but we wouldn’t be surprised if you could. 

While flying can be entertaining, it can also make you uncomfortable in your own skin—altitude often dries it out. Now you combat that problem in two new ways. CTT Systems' Cair humidification system produces relative cabin humidity of 20 percent compared with the desert-like 3 to 5 percent without the equipment. The system uses evaporative cooling, precludes transfer of bacteria within the aircraft, and employs a zonal drying system to deal with condensation issues. 

If that’s not enough, how about a steam shower with essential oils? Lufthansa Technik’s VIP & Executive Jet Solutions now offers a steam generator system that includes outlet, control panel and refill port for vaporizer fluid. The unit doesn’t need to be connected to the aircraft’s main water system and weighs a mere 40 pounds. 

Perhaps you’ve imbibed a tad too much or otherwise feel sluggish. If so, how about a blast of therapeutic oxygen? Lufthansa Technik has an onboard oxygen-generation system that lets you take advantage of this old fighter-pilot trick. Each unit weighs just under 70 pounds, is about the size of a laptop computer and allows for two mask connections and an unlimited oxygen supply.

If the sky’s a tad too bright in the cabin, you might benefit from Vision Systems’ new electronically dimmable windows. They go from clear to dark in five seconds and block 99.9 percent of UV light, according to the company. Of course, you can stop the dimming along the continuum of these extremes to fit your mood. And the windows are available in a variety of colors. 

Hungry? Iacobucci HF Aerospace’s oven for business aircraft is designed for roasting, toasting, grilling and steaming, and its induction system enables faster reheating. 

Of course, if you are cooking fresh meals aboard from scratch, you’ll need durable counter surfaces. Techno Aerospace’s new Glaskote is an “indestructible yet elegant ceramic surface,” according to the company, and it can be faux finished to glossy, flat or satin and colored to look like virtually anything, including marble, granite or rare woods.

Mark Huber reviews new and used aircraft for BJT.

Three Customers, Three Solutions

It isn’t easy completing or updating an aircraft cabin with furnishings that are certifiable, don’t add significantly to weight, convey luxury and meet the customer’s often demanding specifications. We asked completion-center representatives to tell us about three of their most demanding recent projects.

• Indianapolis-based Comlux partnered with Iacobucci Aerospace to create pod seats for a Boeing Business Jet owner. The goal was to enhance functionality and passengers’ ­privacy and provide full flat berthing. The client specified customizations for each type of seat, including a foldout privacy partition on double pods and an electrically adjustable, variable-height privacy shroud, trackable ottoman and 22-inch HD monitor in the super pods. All of this had to be implemented on an accelerated production and certification schedule.

“We developed super-pod, double-pod and single-pod versions with complete electric functionality [to control berthing and leg rest], touchscreen controls and in-arm meal trays and monitors with audio/video on-demand functionality,” says Comlux director of engineering Daron Dryer. 

• UK-based completions center Design Q worked to refurbish a Bombardier Global 7000. The project included the seats, which CEO Howard Guy says are often a key element of a cabin refit. “The seats take up significant space,” he notes. “They tell the boarding guest just how much care has been taken—or not.” 

In this instance, Design Q had to suggest a seat that was economically viable and then redesign it without changing its primary certified structures. Bombardier’s seat supplier provided a frame and system but Design Q created everything else from scratch, including armrests and backrests.

“We wanted a distinctive and sophisticated look, so we moved away from the ­traditional square, flat-sided seats that are on the majority of private jets,” adds Guy. “The inspiration was the feeling, look and quality of high-end recliners—in particular the 1950s Eames chair, whose form describes exactly what it does.”

The team sourced top-quality leathers and added finely machined and polished release handles and control buttons so that the finished product would be not only certifiable and functional but a covetable piece of furniture.

• Airbus Corporate Jet Centre delivered an ACJ320 with seating for 17 passengers to a Middle Eastern customer last October. Following the client’s wishes, the France-based ACJC team created subtle Arabic motifs through the cabin, including decorative inlays on seat backrests and leather embossing on headrests, plus a modern backlit Arabic motif on a wooden lounge partition that can be illuminated or dimmed from a personal digital device. 

The client also wanted an in-flight ­cinematic experience to share with his family but at no expense to the cabin’s sleek décor. The team responded by developing a video display system that blended seamlessly with paneling in both the forward and aft lounges.

“We hid the 52-inch screen in a low ­sideboard, under a glossy surface,” says ACJC general manager Joel Frugier. “In addition, the TV display needed to be electrically actuated and capable of rotating through plus or minus 15 degrees, depending on where the audience was seated so that they’d have a great view of the screen. It’s probably the largest TV that we’ve ever put in an aircraft.” —Gemma Price