As someone who has great trouble sleeping, I am a fan of anything that can facilitate this basic of human needs. Warm milk, hot baths, sleepy time tea, prescription meds, I try them all in search of what is sometimes an ellusive goal. But even the heaviest dose of narcotics won't put me to sleep if I'm sitting uncomfortably upright in an economy-class seat. That's why I'm so excited about some of the new seating concepts being explored by major design firms.
These companies are working under a pretty tough edict from airlines - make new coach seats that are ultra-light and inexpensive but also a heck of a lot more comfortable than what is currently on offer.
This week we checked out the novel staggered seat approach being pursued by Thompson Solutions, and heard from Lufthansa Technik about its plan for a "revolutionary" new economy-class seat. I've talked to a number of other designers about their plans in advance of my interiors feature for Flight's 16 December "festive issue".
Among these, however, a concept from design firm James Park Associates (JPA) - known for its JAL Suite and the award-winning SIA A380 biz class seat - has really caught my attention. It's a stacked sleeper bed, which was designed by the firm in 2001 but is only now being revealed!
Okay, the design was made for a business-class cabin, BUT stacked sleeper seats in economy is not out of the question, as one engineering firm in the DC area has discovered. I'll be at liberty to discuss that solution when my feature is released, but until then check out the JPA design and tell me if you don't think stacked sleepers can become a reality for us poor sods in the back of the bus. Then read on for some key quotes from James about the seat (we'll hear more from him later about a new econo-seat design that JPA is currently pursuing).
Key Quotes from designer James Park:
With respect to the stacked sleeper bed idea -
"We developed a stacked sleeper bed concept in 2001 and I think that it's quite an interesting idea because it could make a lot of difference to how the airframe is constructed. It certainly has its attractions. It could save a lot of cost on the construction of the fuselage, and make much better, fuller use of the aircraft design and the available interior space."
"One of the challenges, however, is how to get in and out of a stacked sleeper seat in an elegant way. How do you make it so that people wouldn't feel awkward getting into the upper seat and out again. And how do you perceive the space - might it feel very claustrophobic?"
"Actually, there have been trains that had two tier sleepers that were quite good. The concept we developed showed that it is possible to design stacked sleeper beds for aircraft, but the question remains, would passengers feel comfortable using it? And, whilst our concept worked very nicely, it was non the less an exercise in creativity, rather than a short or medium term, business-led solution."
I think if something like that were to be adopted it would have to be done at the time a new aircraft is on the drawing board in order to exploit the real structural and special benefits. Keeping in view the distribution of cool air, and with the spine down the centre of the plane, lighting, wiring, the need for structural supports for the upper seats etc - too much would need to be changed or modified within an existing airplane."
"What our stacked sleeper concept did highlight for me, however, was that it is possible to get much more out of the space that is allocated to each passenger and a more effective use of the interior volume if we can take a more radical approach to design solutions. I think that, given the way the industry is structured, the more aviation companies can cooperate in the development of innovative interiors, the more sense it makes in terms of getting a better result. It also means that, at the end of the day, the passenger gets better service."