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Easily LED

LED continues to light the way as manufacturers increasingly offer integrated cabin-wide illumination solutions. Paul E Eden spoke to industry representatives to find out more

Welcoming, illuminating, informing, entertaining, leading the way – cabin lighting has a fundamental effect on passenger experience and a critical role in cabin safety. Done well, cabin lighting solutions are integrated and unobtrusive, yet lend themselves to the overtly obvious, as individual reading lights, accents and ‘starry LED skies’.


Look back five years or so and LED was the bright future of cabin lighting. Today, the majority of airliners still fly with older fluorescent tube lighting, but LED is the dominant line-fit solution and increasingly the standard for retrofit, although hybrid fluorescent/LED systems have also found traction. On the other hand, the latest generation LED systems have begun replacing earlier standards, where colour shifting over time has created uneven lighting – a problem now circumvented by state-of-the-art solutions.


Among the cabin lighting experts at Diehl Aerospace, Dirk-Achim Schevardo says: “Hybrid systems proved to be an excellent solution while LED cabin lighting was still in its development phase. They presupposed future development beyond reliable tube technology, a process also linked to the availability of light, pure-white LEDs. Thanks to increased LED maturity and improved light quality, pure-LED solutions have proven their advantages and replaced hybrid systems.”


Andreas Uthmann, Marketing Lighting and Imaging at SCHOTT agrees that the latest LED technologies mark the way forward and says the company believes the era of LED lighting has really only just begun. “Our HelioJet technology delivers 100% homogeneous light and 100% colour stability over a system’s entire lifetime, with no dead spots. We achieve this via an optical light converter that evenly distributes light from LEDs that feed into a converter from both sides of each section. More importantly, every LED is sensor controlled, so the defined colour and intensity are consistent over its life span.


“It avoids unsightly colour mismatches and enables replacement of parts of the system during maintenance, without differences between old and new parts. It’s impossible to change the fact that LEDs shift colour and intensity over time according to their own individual pattern, but HelioJet manages the problem.”


Both Diehl and SCHOTT support the aircraft OEMs and retrofit markets, but for UK-based STG Aerospace, cabin refurbishment is a core business. Its blue/white liTeMood LED system is in service on the Boeing 737, 757, and the Avro RJ. Sean O'Kell, STG's Director of Innovation has reported positive customer feedback, with in-service reliability proving better than predicted.


Clearly an advocate of LED lighting, O’Kell uses figures derived from Boeing research to back his enthusiasm. They looked at how improved lighting enhanced the passenger experience, citing the ‘Halo Effect’, where the cabin environment remains identical, except LED replaces fluorescent light. “Passengers rated cabin cleanliness at plus 40% with the brighter, whiter light. Air quality was thought to have improved by 41% and temperature also 40% better.”


Originally, liTeMood replaced only traditional ceiling and sidewall lights, but O’Kell says: “As well as expanding onto new types, on the 737 for example, we’ve now got certification to replace recessed, entry, overwing exit and reading lights as well. My goal for the Boeing models in particular is to reach the situation where a passenger sitting on the aircraft will see only LED lighting products supplied by STG Aerospace.” It’s a nod towards the full system lighting concept that the industry has rapidly adopted.


Holistic approach


Thanks to their light weight, reliability, reduced energy consumption and compact size, LED systems are the solutions of choice for the OEMs. According to Rodrigo Silva e Souza, Marketing Vice President, Embraer Commercial Aviation: “The E2’s LED system saved more than 15% in weight compared to an equivalent fluorescent system. Reliability and lower power consumption are other advantages, while LED also enables greater integration with the cabin management system and digital light control. It’s simple for the cabin crew to operate, using pre-recorded scenarios, and delivers more efficient cabin lighting.”


LED technology has also enabled cabin designers to adopt a new, holistic approach to cabin design. Luke Hawes, a director at UK design consultancy PriestmanGoode says: “We’re in a unique position where we work on every aspect of the cabin and beyond. As a result, we’re able to consider lighting as part of a whole experience. We can design a bespoke seat reading light in relation to overhead seat lighting and broader cabin lighting, which enables us to create more subtle systems that provide a more pleasant visual and psychological experience for passengers.” >>

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