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Sight for sore eyes

LED lighting solutions installed in the cabins of commercial airliners are increasingly enabling a use of light on board that is personalised to the individual needs and preferences of passengers, as Mario Pierobon discovers

 In an economy class seat, for example, a passenger could be doing many different things, from sleeping, to reading, to watching preloaded content on their mobile device or using the inflight entertainment system. The personalised usage of lighting is therefore very important.




Simon Lesage, Lighting/PCU Product Line Manager at Astronics PGA, says there are now two different approaches. One approach is to provide a reading light as an aesthetic complement of the seat, while an alternative is to simply provide a purely functional product up to the point that it becomes invisible for some seat integrations: “Our goal is to propose the most advanced interaction choices between the passenger and their personal area, including being able to play with their reading lamp,” he says.


“This is possible by several features in products such as lighting colour configuration or a deeper functional change in the product use. For example, the tactile surface of Astronics PGA’s Mila proposes a new and spontaneous way to control in-seat lighting. It has up to four touch zones, single touch, sliding effects (vertical, horizontal, circular) or nothing at all. Mila can also be used for different ways to match an airline’s needs in terms of ambiance for its customers.” 


“LED technology is used for all forms of personal lighting needs ranging from reading lights to speciality lighting,” says Steve Scover, Vice President and General Manager of Lighting and Integrated Systems at Rockwell Collins. “Some of our customers desire specific architectural elements such as sconces or lighting elements embedded in seating features, floor elements and monuments. We provide a wide variety of LED lighting solutions in all shapes and applications to suit these needs.”


According to Dr Lauren Fleming, Senior Research and Development Scientist at STG Aerospace, 2016 statistics from the IATA suggest that reading is still the number one pastime on short haul flights, while American Airlines report that more than 90% of their passengers bring a device or screen on board with them. “However, the need for an integrated lighting environment within the cabin has never been more important. Is the cabin lighting ready for the many different activities an average passenger could be doing? Lighting will always be at its best when it has been tailored for the specific task, but how can you tailor lighting when so many different activities are available to an average passenger? STG Aerospace has designed a reading light that delivers the correct quality and quantity of light that complements the passenger and their desired choice of inflight entertainment,” Fleming points out.


“Manufactured using multi-phosphor LEDs that produce a high quality, uniformly illuminated area, the liTeMood LED Reading Light is proven to reduce glare on mobiles, tablets and inflight entertainment. An optimal reading environment is created from a greater reproduction of colours, making the clarity of text and images ‘pop’ off the page because of high colour rendering index (CRI) to a neutral white colour (3500-4000K), which helps to aid concentration. As for those passengers who just wish to sleep during their flight, the optical unit delivers a uniform square-beam lighting profile which has been balanced  with intensity to provide a light that does not impact on other passengers trying to sleep.”


LED red, green, blue, white (RGBW) lights offer a good opportunity for personalisation and passenger-centric solutions. Warmer lights can be offset with cooler lights and vice versa. “Airline brand colours can be subtly accented into the cabin. On a personal level, colour bias can be catered for,” says Tim Manson, Design Director for Transport at JPA Design. “For example, I have an inbuilt reaction to blue lighting – in certain circumstances, it reminds me of cheap tech. Personally, I respond better to warmer tones particularly when flying. However, another person will have a completely different relationship with lighting, they may prefer a more clinical look or colourful space and have a different cultural relationship to light.”


RGBW lighting is the expectation for airline’s tailored control of their cabin environment, with bin and sidewall lighting featuring this for many years. “It is also now a growing trend on most discerning high-end seats. Bespoke in-seat lighting has a great effect on mood lighting, environmental control, complementing materials and reinforcing the airline’s character/brand. This is a trend we hope to see continue,” says William Harbidge, Senior Designer at JPA Design. >>


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