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Getting personal

Recent advances are permitting passengers to control lighting to fit their individual needs, without intruding into the personal space of other fliers, as Mario Pierobon discovers

Passenger lighting has always been a personal choice to a degree: on/off, dim/bright, point here/point there; but it is this one-dimensional approach to lighting that is rapidly evolving. “We see airlines focusing on customer experiences and refinement of the passengers’ enjoyment of the journey. Lighting plays an extremely important role within the emotional relationship to the experience and comfort equation,” says Tim Manson, Design Director – Transport at JPA Design. “Personalisation is increasingly more about providing ambient scenarios, colour, brightness levels and arrangement of lighting, providing passengers with a degree of control within their suite. As with American First, China Eastern, Air France and BA First, we see some good examples of lights that provide an ambient residential glow, rather than a hard-at-work task light.”


A recent example of this trend towards full personalisation is Emirates’ new first class suite for which the airline has allowed greater passenger-driven customisation of light and colour. “This highlights a common decision of how far to enable passenger adjustments,” says William Harbidge, Senior Industrial Designer at JPA Design. “Does personalisation benefit the passenger experience if the light colour is detrimental to that phase of the journey? As designers, we very carefully consider the light spectrum to use at each phase. This may be tailored to highlight the seats’ materials, assist the onset of sleep or complement the food. For instance, a bright green light will not help the latter.”

Steve Scover, Vice President and General Manager of Lighting and Integrated Systems at Rockwell Collins affirms the importance of complementary lighting: “The technology can fully accommodate passenger preference, and we are seeing some of our commercial and business jet customers embrace that thinking. Whether it is by a phone application or by customer-based records, the cabin environment can automatically be tuned to the desires of the passenger. Additionally, if a customer desires a warmer colour as opposed to a crisper white or a specific colour, we offer the ability to personalise your space at the touch of a button.”

In accordance with the trend towards personalised lighting, Astronics PGA develops personal lighting solutions to ensure precise, non-glare light beam dedicated to passenger areas. “Years of studies in optical solutions allow us to illuminate a dedicated area if needed. We also provide several beam angle options with our product, depending on the airline’s needs in term of seat integration. Mila, designed in conjunction with JPA Design, introduces the Omega Ring concept and offers a contained yet mastered light beam orientation. It is the most intuitive way to precisely control and adjust personal light beams without disturbing other passengers or illuminating the cabin aisle,” says Simon Lesage, Lighting/PCU Product Line Manager at Astronics PGA.

Indeed, it is in the premium section of the cabin – first class in particular – that individually adjustable lighting options are primarily employed: “It is only there that the distances between the individual seats are great enough. Personalised lighting only makes sense when there is sufficient room to prevent disruption to the general cabin ambience,” says Marc Renz, Head of Business Development Cabin Systems at Diehl Aerospace. “Lighting is a central design element of a cabin. Not everything that is technically possible today necessarily meets the tastes of branding specialists or industrial designers, nor their requirements in terms of what constitutes a functional cabin. From our viewpoint, airline operators will not want to allow economy class or business class passengers to be able to independently adjust the colour or brightness of overhead lighting, except for reading lights, of course.”

Reading lights are also making it possible to personalise the use of light in all cabin sections, and this is in part thanks to LED technology, as Dr Lauren Fleming, Senior Research and Development Scientist at STG Aerospace expounds: “Our liTeMood LED reading lights improve the reading environment onboard by utilising the directionality of LED lighting to create a unique square light footprint that helps define the passenger space, reinforce boundaries and improve the sense of control. It is a lighting solution purposely designed to help passengers feel better… Historically, aircraft cabins have been fitted with fluorescent/incandescent lighting systems, a multi-directional light source that illuminates the entire cabin. Today, lighting has evolved, and now all new-build aircraft are supplied with LED cabin lighting as standard. Lighting is now more adaptive, safer and meets more of our needs than ever. As LED lamps deliver a directional source of lighting they can be used now to create multi-layered and personalised spaces. With the cabin light market worth nearly $1 billion, the industry has witnessed a strong switch from fluorescent to LEDs, which is no longer classed as a trend but as an industry standard.” >>


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