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Aircraft manufacturers like to launch new cabins as a single product, but other pressures often result in a continuous evolution. Ian Harbison reports from ATR in Toulouse

For ATR, the last cabin upgrade was the Armonia cabin, which was launched in 2010 and entered service in 2011 on the equally new ATR-600 aircraft family. However, Alessando Amendola, Senior Vice President Engineering, says customer expectations (airlines and passengers), operational considerations and technology all have a part to play in the introduction of modifications over time.

For ATR the most significant of these has been a change to the seats.

In 2016, the company signed a buyer-furnished equipment agreement to allow the French manufacturer Expliseat to supply its Titanium Seat, which saves up to 300kg on an ATR 72-600 for 70 passengers. Amendola notes that the 300kg figure relates to 9g static certified seats. For FAA/EASA operations, the seat will be certified later this year to 16g dynamic standards, which adds 500g per double seat unit. This weight reduction translates into enhanced payload capacity and operational flexibility at airports with short runways, in hot and high altitude environments, as well as on long routes where payload is limited in favour of fuel. This perhaps explains why the launch customer was Air Tahiti, which ordered three ATR 42-600s and four ATR 72-600s, and operates very short inter-island flights.

The second Expliseat customer also operates between islands but had a very different reason for choosing the new seat. Cebu Pacific Air, Philippines, ordered 16 ATR 72-600s in 2015 and wanted a 78-seat layout, the maximum for the aircraft. This was possible due to the lighter seat, although the airline also opted for a galley with no electricity or water, simplifying catering.

Pierre Tiefenbach, Head of Aircraft Interiors & External Livery, says the demand for high density layouts will increase. This has led to the introduction of the Neo Classic and Neo Prestige seats from Geven, replacing the Classic and Prestige seats that were part of the original Armonia concept.

Weight savings of around 160kg per Neo Classic shipset are possible through the use of a single composite shape for the backrest, incorporating a lower height headrest, a lighter seat cushion with firmer foam and a fixed pre-recline that removes the need for a recline mechanism. A prototype was shown at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this year, and development is continuing with the involvement of the Italian designer Giugiaro, which contributed to the original Armonia concept.

Alessandro Luzi, Head of Cabin, Cargo and Cockpit Design, explains that the process involves separate meetings with Geven and Giugiaro Design, as it is important to get different solutions (usually three options from each partner) to a particular requirement. He adds that, although Giugiaro is best known for its car designs (it is owned by Volkswagen), the main contribution on this project is its strength in the industrial design of rail and automotive interiors. When such synergy is gained at the very beginning of the development, elegant solutions are the result, as it is still possible to play on industrial processes by putting them within the design features.

This collaborative effort was brought to bear for the armrest of the new seats. The ATR requirement was that it was 1.3in wide, whilst being aesthetically pleasing at the same time, in order to gain as much width on the backrest as possible. Geven would produce a working design, which could then be aesthetically modified by Giugiaro to provide an attractive shape. The result was a slimline design that provided an 18in space between the armrests, as on the Airbus A320 Family. Currently, work is continuing to define the literature pocket, and certification is expected in April 2018.

The Neo Classic also increases living space by an inch, allowing it to be used at 27in pitch in a high density layout. This gets around the problem of having a mixed pitch in the standard configuration, where some seats are at 29in. In the case of Brazilian carrier Azul, for its ATR 72-600 fleet, the bulkhead that separates the forward cargo bay from the cabin had to be moved by 10cm, freeing up enough space for a consistent 30in pitch, ensuring the same comfort standards as on other aircraft in the fleet.

That forward cargo bay poses a slight problem for a two-class layout, for which the Neo Prestige is intended as a business class solution. It would be installed in a 2+2 layout, featuring a recline, a larger tray table and a backrest which is 2in higher than the Neo Classic. However, the main issue is that the ATR only offers passenger access from the rear of the aircraft. Some airlines that have attempted a two-class solution have kept a standard 2+2 configuration, but designated seats at the back as business class, on the basis of ‘last on, first off’. While some 20 aircraft were fitted with a forward passenger door, Amendola says airlines tend to very quickly realise that keeping the cargo space is important, especially as many ATR operations hub feed to long haul flights and passengers often have more baggage than on a normal regional flight. There is also potential revenue from general freight. >>


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