Should the petition be approved the company would be permitted to install the galley system on Boeing 777s and 787s, as well as Airbus A330s and A350s. The specific cabin layout would still require regulatory approval, but the product would be an option for selection.
The special approval is needed because the M-Flex offering blocks the exit door area when deployed during a flight. As explained in the application:
The expandable monument is a modular transforming-unit that exploits underutilized areas in the cabin by expanding to provide additional usable space. This is achieved by taking advantage of unused space, unfolding in-flight to provide additional service areas. When the modular units are deployed, they block the emergency exits and the attendant seats, located at the exits.
M-flex Duet installs as monuments on either side of the aircraft boarding door. It looks and operates much like those monuments do today while the plane is on the ground; there’s nothing particularly special to consider. But once at cruising altitude the monuments “flex” open, blocking off the door area with a snack bar or crew work area.
That space is frequently used by the crew today as a staging area for the meal service. On longer flights, however, it remains unused for the bulk of the trip. The M-Flex Duet option repurposes the space, making it more appealing for passengers and allowing airlines to increase comfort options available in the sky.
While the primary target is a business class offering, the M-Flex Duet could also play well in the premium economy cabin for carriers that prefer to keep a more high-touch experience further forward.
If there is a specific airline customer driving the certification efforts the company isn’t saying who it is. In a statement provided to PaxEx.Aero Collins notes “[W]e’re continually looking ahead, planning for the future and proactively investigating ways to develop solutions that help our customers and our customer’s customers,” while declining to offer any further details.
The application was published in the Federal Register last week under Docket FAA–2020–1057-004. Public comments will be accepted through 4 May 2021.
A single-aisle M-Flex Switch as well
The company also recently launched the M-Flex Switch for single-aisle aircraft. Similar to the Duet it offers an expandable service area in the galley space. A Collins spokesperson explains that Switch allows airlines “to address the expanded catering needs of the newer narrow-body aircraft.”
Switch, like the Duet, offers customization options to airlines to suit their needs in the space, noting, “It’s a flexible unit and can be adjusted to fit the service and catering needs of a given airline.”
The lower section of the Switch unit accommodates service trolleys. The upper section handles the passenger-facing self-service offerings. Airlines choose how configure the area. Options include area where passengers are able to grab a quick snack that’s been made available, a self-service refrigeration unit with chilled beverages inside or some combination of the two.
The Switch solution is not part of the application as only twin-aisle aircraft are mentioned. Should approval be granted, however, it seems likely that Switch would be more likely to realize a similar fate in the future.
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