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Airlines

Hard and fast

Carpets are for comfort but some parts of the aircraft require tougher materials, hence the use of non-textile flooring (NTF). Ian Harbison reports
 

 The aim of NTF is to provide a tough, safe surface in areas such as entrance ways, galleys, lavatories and the flight deck. It is generally available in PVC or silicone. Gregg Nord, Sales Manager – Manufacturing Specialty Sales at Lonseal, one of the biggest suppliers, says vinyl has a number of advantages. It can be up to 30% lighter than some NTF, always an important consideration, and is more stable, so it is less likely to buckle over time, or show sink marks. It is also available in a wider range of designs and colours.

One of the most common designs has been embossed circles, known as the coin effect, but, more recently, airlines have been moving towards wood and stone effects, transferred from business aircraft designs. A photo transfer is used, sealed with a protective clear layer on top.

Of course, the material must meet all the regulatory requirements for FSH, as well as OEM standards (Airbus, Boeing, COMAC and Embraer), but one extra requirement is anti-slip characteristics.


It is inherently moisture resistant, which makes it easy to clean, but also prevents water ingress into the aircraft structure – some aircraft types are well known for corrosion in the galley and lavatory areas, when inspected at a heavy maintenance check.

As with some carpets, the material can be supplied on a roll, with 1.5-1.8m being standard, but up to 2.44m being available as well. This is the norm for the MRO market and for the Boeing production line, the material being taped in place. However, at Airbus, it is bonded to a composite sheet and delivered as rigid panels.

He notes that widths are increasing each year, as there are a number of advantages to be gained. If the material has to be spliced together in the factory, the join can break over time, so larger pieces will last longer – normal service life is three years, although Lonseal offers a five year warranty. In fact, it is possible to equip the front galley of a narrowbody aircraft with a single piece, which speeds installation times.

Another differentiator for Lonseal is that its material is compatible with the European Union REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation. In part, this is the result of working with Airbus and having European competitors, which also meet the standard, but he points out that REACH is becoming a worldwide production standard, and Lonseal has a strong commitment to environmental issues, including a low VOC content in the material.


The company operates across a number of markets, so non-aviation designs can be adopted after a three-month transition process, including testing of the new part number after customer approval of colour and texture.

As for the future, he says it is clear that the market can only grow, not just from increased production rates, but a major expansion of MRO activities, as aircraft are upgraded or reconfigured.


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