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Form, fit, function

Following a reorganisation last year, Airline Services Interiors is setting high growth targets for its business. Ian Harbison reports from Manchester

It has been a busy year for Airline Services since the 2015 Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, says Chief Executive Officer, Mike Humphreys. At last year’s event the company announced a major restructuring (see Aircraft Cabin Management, April 2015), introducing three new divisions: Interiors, Components and Handling.


Following the announcement at AIX, in August last year Airline Services Components, its rotable component and distribution business based at London-Gatwick, was sold to AerFin, which will use the assets to provide 24/7 AOG support, sales, exchanges and power by the hour support agreements across all major commercial airframe platforms. Humphreys says the company did not achieve EASA/FAA dual release and was in a very competitive market. This was the third disposal of a non-core business, following avionics repairs at its London-Stansted base and production of its AeroStream IFE system. These developments allowed the company to focus on the most profitable aspects of its operations and to invest in its Manchester facilities, which are spread across three neighbouring buildings.


The new strategy was given a major boost in November, when Airline Services Interiors (ASI) announced that it had won a contract to integrate the Panasonic Avionics eX3 IFE system on 18 Boeing 747-400 aircraft operated by British Airways. This is in addition to a cabin seating reconfiguration, from 14F/70J/30W/185Y to 14F/86J/30W/145Y, as well as a refresh of the interior to bring it in line with the airline’s new Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft.


ASI was responsible for the design, certification and manufacture of the modification kits to integrate the new IFE system in each cabin, working with Panasonic and Zodiac NAT, which certified the installation into the aircraft (the company also works extensively with SWS Certification Services). As part of the upgrade, ASI also integrated new universal power sockets at every seat in World Traveller Plus (premium economy), together with individual USB sockets. For the cabin refresh, it developed new fitted seat covers to improve comfort and appearance.


Trial integration and First Article seat build was carried out in Manchester. This was before the work was transferred to British Airways Interiors Engineering at its facility in Blackwood, UK, close to British Airways Maintenance Cardiff, where the first aircraft was refurbished in early September. By early March, eight aircraft had been completed; it is anticipated that all 18 747s will be refitted by August 2016.


This type of work falls under Managed Solutions, and other projects in this field include a long-term programme to convert business class seats from Etihad for the airberlin Airbus A340 fleet, with 12 aircraft having been completed so far. This follows work with Lufthansa and Aer Lingus on IFE installation and cabin upgrades.


Mark Stevens, Director of Sales & Marketing of at ASI, says one of the biggest advantages for the company is that it holds EASA Part 21G manufacturing, Part 21J design and Part 145 repair approvals. It can offer quicker, cheaper solutions than OEMs, but still with high quality results. This also applies to Engineered Products, the second of the company’s three parts dedicated to the interiors business.


Engineered Products offers a complete end-to-end process for the design and manufacture of replacement components. The company has invested in a laser scanner and 3D printing facility, which enables it to quickly reverse engineer a variety of non-structural cabin components such as armrests, trim panels, meal trays and seat back shrouds. The laser measurements are fed into the Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD software and a prototype can be quickly made and checked for fit. If this is satisfactory, the tooling for vacuum formed and injection moulded parts is then produced, usually in-house, and production can begin. Stevens says this can be achieved in four to five days.


Other components handled under Engineered Products include fabric and leather seat covers (with easyJet being a major customer); aisle, underseat and cockpit carpets; class dividers; dogboxes; and small monuments/stowages. A contract with Emirates provides replacement mirrors across the fleet.


Some 750 units are produced annually, covering a surprising amount of part numbers – there are various shapes and sizes, some with cutouts for backlighting.


Another business line is the manufacture of all pleated cabin curtains for Lantal, amounting to 8,500 sets in 2015. Material in the required airline colours is supplied by the Swiss manufacturer in bulk. The curtains are then produced to order by a highly skilled sewing team. They are folded using a template, sandwiched between two wooden boards and placed in an autoclave, where high pressure and high temperature steam produce the permanent creases. The team also manufacture unpleated curtains for use in the cabin.


A recent development – the result of new EASA regulations – has been acoustic blackout curtains to surround seats designated for crew rest. These are designed to meet the requirements of a class 2 facility (a seat in an aircraft cabin that reclines at least 45°, has a pitch of at least 55 inches, a seat width of at least 20 inches and provides both leg and foot support) or a class 3 facilityc(a seat in an aircraft cabin or flight crew compartment that reclines at least 40° and provides leg and foot support). Both call for separation from passengers by at least a curtain to provide darkness and some sound mitigation. ASI’s solution has been selected by Thomas Cook, as it allows extensions to the basic maximum Flight Duty Period for longhaul operations with an augmented crew (three or four pilots).


The third section of the business is Through Life Support, which specialises in repair and maintenance services for aircraft seats and galley equipment. These were recently augmented by passenger service units and monitors for IFE systems. This is the mainstay of ASI and is expected to grow significantly in the next few years, says Humphreys. It is aimed at operators, either as part of an ongoing programme or linked to aircraft heavy maintenance visits and at leasing companies, again during overhaul or rebranding for new customers. Other services include warranty repairs and the on-wing embodiment of SBs for OEMs. Stevens notes that Airline Services Handling can often assist with aircraft access to get teams on board to carry out the work – it is involved in ground handling and aircraft cleaning at 12 UK airports.


For the future, there is an intention to move into monuments work, adding stress analysis and technical authorship departments, along with a greater degree of internal project management.

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