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Mood control

Cabin management systems are evolving to handle the growing complexity of lighting and other technologies installed to enhance passenger comfort, while improved user interfaces make life easier for cabin crew

Airbus introduced the cabin intercommunication data system (CIDS) on the A320; cabin services marketing manager Patrick Candelier compares the CIDS, and the flight attendant panel (FAP) through which it is controlled, to the fly-by-wire flight control system and sidestick controller that were two of the type’s other ground-breaking innovations.


In addition to leveraging innovative technology, he says, they feature an intuitive interface that was first developed for the A320 and then introduced systematically for each new Airbus aircraft type or programme: “As a result, cabin crew operate any Airbus aircraft from the A318 to the A380 with the very same interface and ergonomics.”


The CIDS, Candelier says, formed part of the initial standard design that began in 1985: “For the first time ever, a single system integrated multiple functionalities such as communications between cabin crew and with the cockpit, lighting control and passenger announcements.”


Since then, the range of functions it controls has expanded and the human-machine interface has continued to evolve, with touchscreen technology replacing push buttons as the cabin crew interface. “The functionalities encompassed by the CIDS now amount to around 40 different services,” he says, “not to mention the possibility to interface with and control other cabin systems such as IFE, connectivity, digital cabin logbook, maintenance modes and so on.” The capability for these additional controls entered service recently and will be basic on the A350, he adds.


The cabin crew now manage all cabin systems from the FAP, whose number and locations in the cabin can be customised in line with airlines’ requests. In addition, Candelier says, “the convergence of systems protocols towards Ethernet IP enabled us to further optimise the CIDS both on hardware and software sides, and to add new services such as smoke detection and cameras.”


Digital evolution


The A380 introduced the web-based digital cabin logbook, which enables the FAP to be used for standardised cabin defect reporting. The cabin crew select cabin defects from a standard defect catalogue, which is customised according to cabin configuration. A graphical user interface (GUI) guides the user to identify the location of a cabin defect and select an appropriate description from the logbook’s configurable standard catalogue. The standardised defect reports can be submitted to the ground when the aircraft is still flying. The ability to start the logistics for repair before landing can help improve dispatch reliability.


Another innovation on the A350 will be the introduction of display-based passenger signage (DbPS), with full colour displays wholly integrated into the CIDS in place of the conventional overhead-mounted, LED-based lighted signs. Full software configuration reduces the need for individual lenses and provides enhanced flexibility in control and customisation, all based on standard hardware.


In addition to the normal sign pictograms, the DbPS can display airline-defined information, such as supportive text explaining the meaning of signs in various languages. Short information messages relating to the flight status or even pictures and short videos of the flight destination give the crew a non-intrusive means of communicating with passengers. As well as enhancing the passenger’s travelling experience, Airbus says, the new signage will enable airlines to implement consistent cabin branding. State-of-the-art display technology is said to provide excellent visibility and legibility, even at extreme viewing angles, without inconveniencing passengers in close proximity.


Enhanced cabin retrofit


The CIDS is also a retrofit option as part of the A320 Enhanced Cabin introduced on new aircraft in 2007. The new cabin is lighter, quieter and more spacious. FACC, which designed and produces the composite stowage bins, ceiling panels and cove light panels, says the reductions in weight and interior noise levels were achieved by improving the lay-up process in component production and decoupling acoustic connections of the cabin to the aircraft structure. There is 10% more stowage volume, and a one-inch increase in cabin width at shoulder level. Condor became the first customer for a retrofit in 2009.

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