The face of air travel is changing thanks to the rapid adoption of new technology and demands for enhanced services by a new breed of elite passengers. Advances in the aircraft cabin environment are also affecting the many, not just the few. It's not that long ago that LCD monitors replaced CRT screens, or that in-seat telephones and power points have become the norm on some carriers. And now, with real-time Inter-net access coming into service, the IFE revolution has just only begun.
Two companies that are doing much to push the boundaries of innovation in aircraft cabins, Lufthansa Technik and QinetiQ, believe that the era of the "Smart Cabin" has arrived.
"Smart Cabin is neither a far-fetched marketing concept, nor is it just about technological innovation. In fact, it is living recognition that the aircraft cabin interior is integral to brand development," says Andrew Muirhead, Lufthansa Technik's manager Innovation Engineering.
QinetiQ business development manager David Howells agrees, adding: "The cabin systems market has changed significantly in recent years, with both the airlines and the suppliers challenging the received wisdom of how an aircraft interior should look. This has lead to certain, high-profile carriers spending more on new and unique products. "
In October 2003, Lufthansa Technik and QinetiQ signed a Memorandum of Under-standing (MoU) with the purpose of advancing a range of technology cabin system solutions in the executive and VIP jet market. Lightweight materials, security and surveillance systems, cabin acoustics and lighting are key technology areas covered by the MoU.
With its extensive work in the defence and aerospace arenas, QinetiQ has decades of accumulated knowledge in materials, structures, communications and security/surveillance systems. QinetiQ's partnership with Lufthansa Technik ideally positions it to jointly deliver comfort at reasonable cost, meet the vital demands of security and safety, while offering reliability as well as open architecture and system integration.
Other areas of possible development between the two companies include communication, navigation, complete integrated avionics and display systems and low-signal strength GPS solutions.