Lufthansa Technik may be having a torrid time on the completions front – after taking the decision last year to put its Bizjet facility in Tulsa in “dormant mode” – but the German maintenance house is at EBACE in confident mood, promoting a series of cabin innovations from interior concepts to connectivity solutions and even its own seat.

At the show, the Hamburg-based company will unveil a design concept for the Airbus A350 it says is the result of a long-term study of the buying patterns, tastes and backgrounds of the world’s new billionaires. The floorplan switches many of the established rules associated with bizliners by, for example, moving the main bedroom to the front of the cabin, where it is less noisy, and connecting it with sliding doors to a larger lounge to give owners more private time and space with their families.

“This is an airplane for a family. It’s not strictly a business aircraft,” says project manager Christoph Ahrens. “These billionaires are global nomads, who are very family orientated. Time is a precious commodity for them and privacy is rare. Their family is their anchor.”

Other ideas include an aft spa with heated stone couches for massages, and a steam shower. Although the design is only a concept, Lufthansa Technik says Airbus has supported the project and that it could create a very similar interior within two years of an ACJ350 being sold. “The aim of this project was very much to create something real,” says Ahrens.

Lufthansa Technik is also announcing enhancements to its NICE (Networked Interfaced Cabin Equipment) range, introduced in 2010 and which is standard on eight business aircraft platforms including the Bombardier Learjet 70/75 and the Challenger 350 and 650. They include a fibre backbone that will support multiple 4k video streams, says Dave Crossett, sales and marketing department head for Lufthansa Technik’s product division.

The company is also reintroducing a Hollywood content package as part of its NICE offering. The service was briefly withdrawn in November as Lufthansa Technik sought a partner to market the content. “We now have that partner, although we cannot announce who it is yet,” says Crossett. Another NICE innovation is a mobile version of the system’s moving map, which will be available “after summer” and will work on any Apple, Android or Windows device, he says.

A key part of Lufthansa Technik’s strategy in the business aviation world is to position itself as a designer of original equipment products. A division set up two years ago has devised products for business jet interiors. These include a concept seat design, called chair, which is in effect a 16g frame around which a variety of seats can be built. “The business seat on an aircraft hasn’t changed much in 50 years, and we thought 'why don’t we try to certificate something that looks different?' It is a skeleton that can be reapplied to different designs,” says Crossett.

Other products from the division that will be exhibited on the Lufthansa Technik stand at EBACE include a dishwasher and an inductive cooker, which the company says allows cabin crew to prepare fresh hot meals on board. In addition, the company will be promoting a patient transport unit, a series of modules including a bed and racks for medical equipment. The product can, says Lufthansa Technik, integrate “virtually any medical equipment commonly used in medical care”, and has been installed on two Boeing 747-8 business jets, as well as two of Lufthansa’s commercial Airbus A380s.

The company is also working on a Ka-band compatible version of its TIOS [Two In One System] tail-mounted radome for the Boeing Business Jet that can accommodate satellite TV and sitcom antennas. So far, all of the 50 or so TIOS systems have a less capable and previous-generation Ku-band antenna installed.

But while innovation may be rife at Lufthansa Technik, progress is slower for the cabin completion business, admits Walter Heerdt, senior vice president of VIP and special mission aircraft services. The company has two BBJs and one 747-8 in the works but depressed demand in the US and for China has forced it to take the “painful decision” to scale down its Tulsa centre, which specialised in narrowbodies, from the third quarter this year. It will continue to focus on engine overhauls.

Lufthansa Technik is also reducing its widebody lines at Hamburg from three to two, alongside its two narrowbody lines. It opened the third line in 2009 as it foresaw a peak in demand for completions of Boeing 787s and 747-8s as well as Airbus A350s. Although airliner modification work from its sister airline has helped allay some of the loss of business aviation contracts, times are still tough.

“There is a lot of capacity but not so many projects,” he says, with little business coming into the pipeline as slowing growth or recession in previously bullish markets such as China, the Middle East, Brazil and Russia have reduced the appetite for airliner-derived business jets. “We are well set now for 2016 and 2017 is still pretty promising, but for 2018/19, we will have to wait and see.”

Heerdt admits “it is hard to see when the market will come back. It’s crystal ball stuff and if I could predict it, I’d be a rich man.” He says Lufthansa Technik took tough decisions to “scale back capacity to meet demand” and that have “given us the possibility to breathe”.

As an experienced specialist in the 747-8 particularly, Heerdt says there are “still some projects out there and we are working hard to get them”. However the focus for Lufthansa Technik for now will continue to be on developing new interior products, and on the special mission market – a relatively new field for the company. “It’s an exciting opportunity for us,” says Heerdt. “We can do a lot of things with our engineering team.”

Source: Flight Daily News