Late Monday afternoon, Mary Kirby and I were given an exclusive look at Panasonic's new integrated IFE seat design called the Fusion. The change could represent a major shift in how airlines leverage IFE for economy class cabins.
The new slim seat design, which was covered with a blanket when Mary and I first arrived at Panasonic's still under construction stand, was shown to us installed on the Weber 5751 economy class seat. Panasonic has gone to great lengths to create a new integrated interface between the IFE screen and the seatback, with new design that introduces a clearer new capacitive LCD screen.
The touchscreen LCD will come in seven or nine inch options, and a USB power port will be a standard feature. Panasonic envisions a fully connected IFE seat-back interface that accomodates in-flight access to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
While Panasonic says that they have yet to sign a customer for the new seat and IFE system, the company says it is working closely with airframers like Bombardier to offer the Fusion system as part of the CSeries cabin. Panasonic is already supplying the cabin mangement system for the CSeries.
"We look at CSeries as a great opportunity," says Paul Margis, CEO of Panasonic Avionics.
Panasonic says that the Fusion system is designed for both narrowbody and widebody applications. Each system weighs about 1.5 lbs, compared to the current system which weighs about twice that.
The 50% weight cut could yield significant long-term fuel burn savings when spread across aircraft economy cabins like that of Qatar Airways 777-300ER which seats 293 or the Emirates A380 which seats 399.
Panasonic hopes to have the Fusion flying by November of 2010.