Debonair chats with Giles English, who created UK brand Bremont with his brother, Nick
The company has showcased its Welcome Home interior fit out concept for the wide-body A350 jet. We explore the design philosophy
When Airbus Corporate Jets announced the launch of the ACJ350 XWB, Lufthansa Technik was one of just three completion companies approved to work on the new aircraft. It was perhaps no surprise, as few companies have as much MRO experience with the A350 XWB, with daily technical services carried out on the aircraft type for the commercial airline.
When it came to the VIP interior, the company’s designers approached the design of the new jet with a new younger client in mind; one who spends longer times in flight, and views the aircraft as their second home.
Wieland Timm, VP Sales and Special Mission Aircraft at Lufthansa Technik, says: “The clients are changing. In the past, they were mostly older, had their own ideas on how it should be and they had their own designers – often someone who had worked on their home and their yacht. Now, we have a new generation. They are younger; they are not so linked to the old fashioned styles. They treat the aircraft as a separate entity for design. They are looking for something different, more innovative. They want to play with their families, party, play PlayStation and relax.”
Lufthansa Technik’s Welcome Home concept takes into account the tense and hectic lifestyles of these VIP customers. It aims to offer a perfect ambience for recreation and relaxation during travel times. The concept is flexible and allows the adaptation to other widebody aircraft.
Timm explains: “The idea was that if someone is in the position to buy a wide-bodied aircraft, then one of their most important values is their health. Potentially, without them the whole business will collapse, because it is always focussed on that lead person. So we looked at ways to make flying healthier and more flexible.”
The design creates flexible areas that can be opened and combined for better social interaction or closed for full privacy. In the forward section of the aircraft, the Family Flex Area is a large and airy private space, comparable to a hotel suite, with bathroom, bedroom and lounge. An office within this area allows the principal to work and communicate privately whenever required.
Says Timm: “We have more open space, which can be individualised to separate into rooms or not. This gives the feeling of a loft-type living area, which appeals to younger generations. They do not want small boxes. They want space. It is a spacious aircraft, so why cover that up? So the design is highly flexible. You have sliding doors so you can have privacy as a bedroom, or you can open it up to the lounge.”
Guest lounge and dining
Top sound quality and individual lighting helps passengers relax in their comforting surroundings, along with top entertainment facilities, such as a cinema-size screen in the guest lounge. Lufthansa Technik’s new ‘Living Lining’ concept turns the ceiling and walls into lighting elements that are controlled and tinted by mobile devices.
The guest lounge area is dominated by a large dining table and galley, which features an induction platform for fresh food cooking on board, as part of the inflight healthy living ideal.
Timm adds: “The live cooking facility in the galley is important, as food is a major element of healthy living. We find that clients, particularly in Asia, love to have fresh food. In the Welcome Home design, there is a dining table near the kitchen, with the intention that guests can sit at the table while the butler is preparing the meal. If somebody wants a steak, it can be cooked fresh and to his or her specification, like in a restaurant. Live cooking in an aircraft is still very rare; mostly it is pre-prepared and reheated or just chilled food.”
Passing through the guest rooms and bathrooms, you reach the rear of the aircraft and the highlight of healthy travelling, the spa. The spa and workout area welcomes guests with a humidifying water feature and facilities include a relaxing steam bath, a massage shower, and heated massage tables that may also double as passenger transport if required. The workout space can be fitted with gym equipment or left open for yoga or Pilates. Superb sound systems, individual lighting and aromatherapy ensure users remain immersed in a deeply relaxing experience.
“Another consideration for the health and comfort of the passengers is the level of humidity on-board.”
Timm explains: “Traditionally, VIPs tend to use the time when flying for working. This is fine for shorter journeys, but with the ACJ350 you may travel up to 15 hours. So we designed one part of the aircraft for wellness and another for relaxed loft living with your family or friends, in addition to the office space.”
This ability to relax with the family is important as for busy professionals time together is often limited.
Another consideration for the health and comfort of the passengers is the level of humidity on-board. Timm explains: “If you have a huge aircraft and you have very few people on board you have a humidity problem. The interior of that aircraft is more dry than Death Valley. In the VIP version, such as Welcome Home, we have three humidifying systems on board. This is also why we have the steam shower and the oxygen shower. The steam helps your body and your environment. You feel more positive, even if you are flying longer, up to 15 or 16 hours.”
Composite challenges in design
Much has been made of the challenges of designing interiors for aircraft with a composite airframe, but for Timm this is not the major challenge that Lufthansa Technik faces in the ACJ350 and similar new aircraft.
Timm says: “In the past, airliners were built so that they were really strong, but they were also a little heavy. Currently, everything is linked to saving fuel. Saving fuel means saving weight, and saving weight means that you need new materials. Therefore, many of these new types of aircraft, which includes the Boeing 787, are minimised in weight. That is perfect in a commercial airliner, but a VIP aircraft is totally different. In areas of the fuselage, which would normally house a few rows of people, you are putting in a shower and steam bath. The system is not designed for that.
“So you have to find clever ideas, so you can be very flexible in the cabin outfitting, but within the requirements of the original constructors of the fuselage. On the composite side, it means you can’t drill holes wherever you like. You have limited loads on the floor and the ceiling, where you put your furniture, or your galleys. The galleys on an airliner are normally at the front and the back, with space for a small galley in the middle. VIP galleys are totally different, because every zone has its own galley. So, you need indepth knowledge of aircraft. You need the technical data very early, so you can do your construction, so it helps if you have an airline in the background, which has purchased those aircraft,” he added with a smile. “We were invited to develop the A350 with Airbus. We were involved from day one.”
This indepth knowledge and experience helps the engineers cope with the biggest, and ever-growing challenge, the electrical loads. Timm explained: “The electrical capacity is very limited on these aircraft. A sophisticated VIP aircraft needs so much more electrical support from the system than a commercial aircraft, and it is often just not there. Power is needed for lights, air-conditioning, showers, gym equipment, heated spa beds, kitchen equipment, humidifiers, the IFE system and for so many electronic devices, both personal and those controlling the ambiance. Our engineering teams have studied how the electrical capacity is used and have designed a system that ensures no one notices the shortage. We use a switch system to divert the power to where it is needed, it prioritises different uses in the aircraft.”
Debonair’s monthly micro-focus on the beauty of precision timekeeping features a trio of watches inspired by the spirit of aviation
Debonair flies through history in the 77-year-old Breitling DC-3 science as it attempts to break a world record
For luxury travellers, the sky is no longer the limit, as Javier Loureiro, director of guest experience and onboard concierge, Four Seasons Private Jet, explains as he unveils some of the exciting experiences awaiting the privileged guests