Bombardier: leading the way in aircraft innovation
On 11 December 2019, the International Air Transport Association forecast 2020 as another positive year for aviation, with net profits of US$29.3bn expected.
Not long after, in Montreal, Bombardier celebrated its first ‘Global 6500’ aircraft entering active service with HK Bellawings Jet Limited, Hong Kong. A state-of-the-art vehicle touting the “largest cabin, the longest range and the smoothest ride in its class”, David Coleal, President of Bombardier Aviation, has called the Global 6500, “the aircraft of choice for thriving business jet management companies.”
Alongside an innovatively designed interior, featuring Bombardier’s ergonomically designed ‘Nuage’ seats, the aircraft has two specially-designed Rolls Royce Pearl engines that give it a 6,600 nautical mile range. This allows business passengers in major Asian capitals like Hong Kong and Shanghai to connect to places such as Los Angeles, London and Milan.
Aircraft innovations to watch
With aviation remaining at the forefront of transport innovation and industry leaders like Bombardier pushing the frontiers in manufacturing, here we consider some of the key trends shaping the sector.
Cabin concepts: On larger models of passenger aircraft a diverse range of comfort can be built into the first-class, business-class, and economy-class experience. Airbus (working with Safran) won a 2019 Crystal Cabin Award for its ‘Lower Deck Pax Experience Modules’, which allowed passenger space to be extended into the cargo hold. Meanwhile, Emirates fitted the first-class section of its Boeing 777-300ERs with luxury cabins, featuring personal mini-bars, wardrobes, and beds.
Materials and components: Developing new components or changing materials within an aircraft has benefits not just for passengers but also for manufacturers. Last year, for example, Collins Aerospace replaced its traditional lighting system with newly designed μLED lighting. This innovative technology is a small reading light that uses densely packed LED bulbs to create a focused light source for passengers. Highly adaptable and customisable according to the aircraft’s design, μLEDs have an average lifespan 40,000 hours longer than standard reading lights and a brightness equivalent to at least three of them. This relatively small adjustment has allowed Collins Aerospace to save electricity costs and reduce the weight of its aircraft.
Entertainment and connectivity: Essential to any passenger’s comfort, particularly on long-haul flights, is access to quality entertainment if they desire it. United Airlines secured a contract with communications company Viasat in 2018 to introduce its in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system onto 70 of its aircraft. The IFEC system is highly customisable and inclusive, taking into consideration unique passenger requirements, such as visual/hearing impairments or challenges to mobility. Don Buchman, Vice President of Viasat, said, “Our goal is to ensure United’s customers are fully connected and enjoying their on-board connectivity and entertainment experiences.”