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Comfort factor

Toilets are a basic necessity on board but, says Mario Pierobon, new technology is introducing improvements for passengers and airlines

Over the last several years the average size of lavatories on-board scheduled passenger aircraft has shrunk to accommodate higher seating densities in aircraft cabins. While this trend has contributed significantly to efficiency in the airline business, there now seems to have been a backlash, up to the point that some airlines are actually looking for larger lavatory installations.

The on-board lavatory remains one of the defining features of an aircraft. Whether or not a visit to the lavatory is a pleasant one can affect the passenger’s whole experience, and is an indicator of the airline’s general level of quality. As a result of the lavatory’s central role in how airlines differentiate themselves through branding, a wealth of improvements are being offered as part of cabin fitting and retrofitting. These go beyond the reduction of lavatory sizes, and include new technologies and materials from lavatory manufacturers, as well as anti-microbial finishes.

Executive Vice President and General Manager for reconfiguration and interior products at HAECO Cabin Solutions, Mark Peterman, stresses the importance of innovation: “New mirror materials reduce cost and weight while offering greater clarity and desired options, such as in-mirror lighting. New materials offer design and construction flexibility, and the opportunity to create a unique ‘look’ that harmonises with an airline brand. LED lighting technology is delivering lightweight solutions, multi-colour lighting, and low power consumption.”

New technologies to improve the lavatory experience are also aimed at increasing hygiene; aspiring to reach a future where there will be no need to touch anything in the lavatory. “Touchless activation of items such as the faucet, waste flap and toilet lid is making its way into the development of aircraft on-board lavatories. These features are activated by a variety of methods, such as infrared and capacitive sensing. They create a more hygienic experience by eliminating the need to touch the lavatory,” says Nathan Kwok, Vice President Commercial Operations at Zodiac Monuments US.

Research and Technology Engineer for Lavatories at Diehl Aerosystems, Florian Zager-Rode agrees: “Touchless controls will be available for faucets, soap and disinfectant dispensers, waste flaps, doors, switches and toilet lids. This also decreases the transmission of virulent infections in the cabin… Furthermore, the use of antibacterial and self-cleaning coatings is obviously useful in areas of heavy use or contamination, such as door handles, floor tubs or toilets. And here, not only are genuine hygiene and cleanliness important, but even more so the appearance and perception of it. Therefore, special techniques of lighting, colour and trim support the impression of well-being and spatiality.”

Rockwell Collins’ Advanced Lavatory product line has brought a series of new technologies to the aircraft lavatory market. “Industry firsts include the patented Spacewall technology, which enables airlines to generate more revenue and to achieve higher aircraft productivity, as it allows airlines to either put more seats on the aircraft or to introduce a Premium Economy Cabin in combination with other LOPA changes,” says Tim Lehnig, Director of Sales and Marketing for Lavatories and Waste/Water Systems at Rockwell Collins. “In addition, Rockwell Collins’ Advanced Lavatories feature elements such as multi-colour LED lighting, antibacterial surfaces and the agile toilet system. It provides powerful economic and operational benefits to airlines, as
its modular construction saves 55% in weight, consumes 45% less water and offers an MTBF that is four times higher than the competitors’ products. These are some of the innovations that Rockwell Collins has been utilising to address the industry’s need for increased equipment productivity, lower operating costs, more hygienic environments, and an overall cleaner, more modern design language that better aligns with airline branding strategies.”

Within lavatories that are shrinking in size, the impression of space has key relevance. “By using directly printed panels – instead of décor foil, it is possible to provide phenomenal views of skylines, impressive pictures, patterns or even branding on curved walls, all in high quality reproduction. It is also possible to display moving pictures or information in difficult locations using new projection technology currently in development. And those opportunities are very interesting for branding aspects inside the lavatory as well,” says Zager-Rode.


As ever, continuous attention is being paid to safety on board, and, despite strict laws the lavatories remain famous for being the smokers’ corner of the aircraft. “New smoke detectors have decreased the false alarm rate, and fire suppression inside the trash compartment has virtually eliminated the threat of a fire in the lavatory. However, any new design or material needs to fulfil these high standards. This challenge is usually not recognised or appreciated by the passenger, but represents a large proportion of work during the design phase,” Zager-Rode continues. >>


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