In April 2019 JPA Design and Williams Advanced Engineering announced a partnership to develop new aircraft seating, inspired by Formula 1 racing and Williams’ experience in that segment. This week that partnership took a significant step forward. The two companies are now joined by British Airways and SWS Certification in establishing a consortium, supported by Airbus and with funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), to extend those development efforts. The goal of this 18-month project is to design, develop, manufacture and deliver a new, light-weight structure that can be used for premium cabin airline seats.
The UK has a strong existing industrial base for aircraft seat manufacture and an industrial strategy that highlights composites capability as a key area for development. This aligns to the ATI’s strategic outlook, creating products ready for the next-generation of aircraft.– James Park, founder and principal of JPA Design
The Williams team will lead the effort, with JPA contributing design concepts, including the monocoque design, currently flying with Singapore Airlines. British Airways and Airbus are involved to help ensure that the product can meet the demands of airlines and aircraft manufacturers while SWS Certification will help ensure regulatory compliance. The combination of manufacturing process, design approach and IP aims to reduce the component count, delivering lower cost, lightweight, reconfigurable seating structures for aircraft, incorporating recycled materials.
The consortium targets a 4kg savings per business class seat or 2kg for a premium economy seat. That may not seem like much, but it can scale significantly. The group estimates a savings of 78,500kg of CO2 and $16,500 in fuel per year on an A350 equipped with the lighter seats. And, if things go well, that could be accomplished without compromising on passenger comfort or cabin layout.
Combining Formula One technology, world class design and a laser-like focus on safety across this consortium will deliver significant enhancements for airlines, passengers and the environment. We look forward to playing a crucial role in delivering these innovative, safe new products that seek to revolutionise aircraft interiors for global benefit.– Nigel Smith, Managing Director of SWS Certification
Most seating designs today feature cast or machined aluminum rather than composites. That trend is changing as manufacturers grow their expertise with the newer technology. Mirus AS, Another UK-based group inspired by F1 racing, features composites in its light-weight economy class seat designs. Extending this concept to the premium cabin is now underway.
While it is just a research project for now, the consortium also hopes to demonstrate the necessary competencies to establish a manufacturing and sales operation based in the UK to eventually deliver these seats to airlines. The groups sees a $400 million market that it wants a piece of with the new product concept.