Touring the show floor at this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, we set out to find some of the lesser-known products that passengers rarely see, but make operating an airline possible. At AIX hundreds of companies large and small offer products from USB port cabling to in-floor photo-luminescent lighting that often goes unseen or unnoticed by passengers in the course of a normal flight.
Our first stop was Hutchinson Aerospace, which designs and manufactures—among other pieces—air ducts, floor panels, and insulation for the Airbus A350. At their booth, Hutchinson has a full-scale A350 cockpit section that includes all of their contributions to the aircraft. Rather than just being a model, after the expo the display will be fit together with the other parts that make up the Airbus A350’s cockpit and installed on a production aircraft. The timing of this was excellent, as later in the week Gogo signed a historic agreement with Airbus, allowing us to have our 2Ku satellite technology installed at the Airbus factory.
Just across the aisle we visited Axyal, experts in lightweight plastics and composites. In their booth, a mock-up of the Dassault Falcon business jet’s flight deck displayed the end products of the their different production methods, including 3D printing of large portions of the flight deck. Axyal also found a way to turn empty space on the flight deck into a useful piece of equipment. If sunglasses are important to the pilot, Axyal offers a 3D-printed solution tailored to individual sunglasses models, allowing aircraft owners and pilots to customize their storage solutions on the flight deck.
Next we toured EAM Worldwide, makers of aviation safety products that as a passenger you hope to never need. Their varied lineup of life vests, life rafts, and emergency exit slides were on full display, but what caught our eye was the Auxiliary Kit on offer. The auxiliary kit supplements the existing package that comes attached to the emergency exit slide. The auxiliary kit is fully customizable to customer specifications and can include items such as batteries, water purification and storage options, survival rations, and aerial flares. These are all vital to surviving an accident, yet we’re willing to wager that most passengers have never even considered who designs and fabricates the items that help save lives. Sadly, there was no opportunity to demo an emergency exit slide at the EAM Worldwide booth, though we do have hope for next year.
Our last stop was GPI Forankra, which designs, develops, and manufactures cargo restraint systems and parts for the aerospace industry. These products play a vital role in securing cargo and ensuring that loads do not shift during flight. GPI Forankra isn’t just focused on safety.
Their newest cargo webbing is significantly lighter than previous webbing, resulting in a weight savings of up to 200 kg (440 pounds) per aircraft, which leads to long-term fuel savings. Passengers rarely, if ever, see cargo webbing and restraints, save for the odd glance out the window during boarding while the cargo is still being loaded, but these important pieces of equipment below the passenger floor ensure that passengers and cargo alike get to their destination safely.
Next week, we’ll have more from the Aircraft Interiors Expo show floor, including a demonstration of some new technology that may change what and how you eat on a plane.