INTERIORS: Avio unveils economy class prototype seat

Hamburg
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Italy's Avio Interiors has gone into the lightweight fast lane with a largely composite economy class seat prototype, which it has developed together with legendary car maker Lamborghini.

The designers have been working on the "Leonardo" seat for around two years and the fruit of their labour was revealed at the show yesterday. It has not been finalised yet, but vice chairman Franco Mancassola expects the new seat to enter service in mid-2014.

The primary structure is made from aluminium, because the metal's greater malleability absorbs loads better than the less flexible carbon fibre-reinforced plastic, says Giorgio Santero, head of industrial design. But all other components from the seat pan upwards - such as the backrest structure, armrests and tray table - are manufactured from carbon composite.

Avio aims to cut the weight of a typical long-haul economy class seat by 3kg (6.6lb) to around 11kg with the new design, says Santero. It will also be employed for short- and medium class seats, although Santero expects the weight savings in this category to be no greater than 1.5kg per passenger.

The manufacturer's basic economy class seat weighs currently around 9kg.

Another aim is to reduce maintenance costs by cutting the number of parts on the new seat by around a third.

Mancassola concedes that the largely carbon composite-based design will lead to a higher price. But he says that it "will not be extravagantly more expensive" than a conventional economy class product - and adds that the lower weight and greater longevity should outweigh any cost premiums.