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Designer’s notebook

Ian Harbison caught up with John Tighe, Design Director at JPA Design, to discuss some of the subtleties of the new Business Class cabin for Singapore Airlines, especially the Monocoque seat
 

The company has enjoyed a long relationship with Singapore Airlines, going back almost 20 years to the days of the Boeing 747-400 First Class cabin in 1998, and it previously teamed with JAMCO Corporation in 2013 for the airline’s Boeing 777-300ER Business Class cabin, part of its Next Generation fleet renewal programme. In addition, it won a contract in 2015 for styling, colour and trim on the Premium Economy Class seat from ZIM Flugsitz, which is being introduced across the fleet. While this experience gives JPA Design a deep understanding of the airline’s culture and values, he points out that each new deal has to be won on merit in a competitive tender process. In this case, the pitching was done about four years ago, with development having taken the next three years.


The company describes the cabin as having a modern yet organic colour scheme, with the organic element deriving from the Garden City of Singapore, especially the Gardens by the Bay, says Tighe, which were built on reclaimed land and feature architecture described as ‘bio-sensitive’.


The most distinctive feature is the Monocoque seat. This has a shell made from carbon composite material and, with greater inherent strength, the shell can be thinner while meeting all crashworthiness requirements. The result is a larger shell in the same footprint as the previous seat. Tighe comments that the structure is not a true single piece monocoque, but uses several sections, each carrying different loads, while forming a single unified shape.


He adds that JAMCO has developed a very slim mechanism that follows the contour of the seat meaning that the clearance between the seat and the shell is just a few millimetres. One of the characteristics of the A380 is its very quiet cabin, so the seat mechanism also has to be quiet. This is carried over into the seat structure, where the shell is lined with padding covered by a Nomex fabric for noise absorption. This can also reduce the vibration from accidental contact.


The large, single-piece shrouds that are fitted over and around each seat alternate between light and dark pearlescent blush along the rows. They are moulded from plastic that has a slightly frosted finish which interacts with the mood lighting, creating an effect where different spots are highlighted by different colours. They also have the elements extracted from the airline’s logo that are used on the cushions impressed into the surface.


The strength of composites has also been exploited for the base of the seat, allowing it to carry most of the loads while incorporating generous baggage space. He says passengers – especially in Business Class – increasingly expect to travel with their luggage to avoid delays on arrival. The base retains the appearance of its construction materials, inspired by the interior of the LaFerrari hypercar.


Meanwhile, the bulkheads feature a laminate with a 3D effect pattern.


Part of the understanding of the airline’s culture is reflected in a relatively subdued colour palette – the most pronounced colours remain the colourful sarong kebaya uniforms of the cabin crew – although the orange introduced on the Premium Economy seat appears here around the illuminated cocktail tray. This has been positioned for crew to serve into the space without interrupting customers, who in turn can access their drink in an easier, more intuitive way.


Not everything is new, says Tighe. The company has evolved elements from the previous Next Generation cabin family, offering a reassuring level of familiarity, but with more dynamic and bold features introduced through the space. The hope is that customers will feel they are getting an upgrade.


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