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Airlines

Growing up

Acro Aircraft Seating is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, with 80,000 seats flying worldwide, new designs and a string of contract wins. Ian Harbison reports from Gatwick
 

There have been three big birthday presents so far this year for Acro Aircraft Seating. The first was an agreement with Airbus for its products to be included in the Buyer Furnished Equipment Catalogue; the second was the launch of the new Series 6 economy seat with an order from Air New Zealand (ANZ); and the third was an order from an unidentified airline for a second new design, the Series 7 seat.


The company has been line fit approved at Airbus since 2015, thanks to US low cost carrier Frontier Airlines, a long term customer. The low cost sector has been very important, with other customers including Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines in the US and Jet2.com (Series 3 Superlight) and Thomas Cook (Series 3 Ultra) in the UK. In fact, Jet2.com has been with the company since launch and will take its 100th shipset of seats later this year. The US operators selected the Series 3ST seat mainly for its simplicity—a weight of 10kg/pax, a fixed back pre-reclined at 24° and only 63 parts per triple. Other features include a mini tray table designed to support a tablet computer and e-leather covers.


With the Air New Zealand order, for nine Airbus A320neo and four A321neo aircraft, it could be said that Acro is growing up as it reaches into the market for full service carriers. Certainly, the development process for the Series 6 was much more exhaustive and detailed than for previous models. A major challenge was the distance and time difference from Acro in the UK to the airline on the other side of world, and so an identical development rig was set up in each facility. This allowed the Acro design team and the ANZ engineering team to create, test and send over any progress while their counterparts were sleeping. In addition, the design also features a new seat cover developed in conjunction with Flight Interiors, also in New Zealand. However, with the advantage of continuous 24-hour progress, the lead time was effectively halved.


The airline had carried out an evaluation of a number of seats, and settled on the Series 6 due to its low weight, the clean lines of the composite seatback, great visual appeal and low part count.


It then tested the prototypes with frequent fliers, and found that plush seats tend to restrict movement and become uncomfortable quite quickly, typically within the first 30 minutes of the flight. The trials showed that, after 90 minutes, the Series 6 was rated much higher than other contemporary economy class seat designs, as it offers both support and the freedom of movement. Some of that support comes from extra bolstering around the sides (both back and hips) and in the traditionally less supported lumbar area.


For Chris Brady, Acro Chief Executive Officer, this is simply a reflection of his design philosophy: “When you ask someone to tell you whether a seat is comfortable, they start squirming around, and pushing back and pushing down with their elbows, and asking questions of the seat. When you ask them to sit in a seat for two or three hours, they’re forced to think about how they feel at the end. They start asking questions of themselves. It’s central to the idea that it’s not the seat that’s comfortable, it’s you that’s comfortable,” he says, adding “the most comfortable sitting position is always the next one”.


He notes that comfort is also about maximising the sense of space around the passenger. In this case, clever seat and armrest design added more width across the row compared to the airline’s current A320ceo fleet. The window and aisle seats will be 1cm wider, with the middle seats 3cm wider. To increase space in the foot area, there has been a complete redesign of the IFE boxes and power feed system that also saved weight and reduced the complexity of the IFE feed system overall. >>


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