Airbus embraces curves in new cabin interiors


In these politically correct, gender neutral times, where air hostesses and air stewards have been de-sexed and turned into flight attendants, it's great to report that Airbus is putting the curves back into aircraft. But it's the furnishings, not the people, that are getting the treatment. Curves are one of a host of ways of making the cabin of the new A340-600/500 a place where passengers on epic future flights will feel the space, rather than feeling spaced out.

After roll-out and first flight earlier this year, the world's longest aircraft will be making its public debut at Paris this week.


It could have been designated the "super" A340... the super standing for superlatives. You will see them stamped on the side of the aircraft: longer, larger, farther, faster, higher and so on.

But the design team behind the aircraft has worked as hard on the interior as anywhere else on the aircraft. The use of curves in the design is complemented by new lighting systems. The introduction of light emitting diode (LED) lighting gives operators flexibility in how the lighting is distributed.

"We have spent a lot of time re-thinking all aspects of our design and we believe we have come up with something really special," says Alan Pardoe, director product marketing, A330/A340 family. "We are offering airlines the opportunity to try new things with lighting, giving them greater flexibility in terms of dimness and distribution, to give mood and ambience to the cabin."

Cabin furnishings have also been contoured to do away with straight lines and given a range of subtle colours. "There is more perceived space because that is a function of light, colour and shape," says Pardoe, who adds that the cabin will also be "the quietest cabin in the sky."


Flight attendants will use a touch-screen to control the environment of the cabin. The touch-screen will provide information such as cabin temperature and enable the flight attendant to use a large range of cabin light colours and levels of illumination. Overhead bins have been redesigned too: the centre support has been reduced in size to accommodate three wheelie mini suitcases. The prospect, on the A340-500, of 18h sectors such as Los Angeles-Singapore or New York-Bangkok, has led to more innovation in the underfloor area. By adopting a modular approach, Airbus hopes to give airlines maximum flexibility in how they configure the area. It could be used for crew rest areas, toilets or galleys.

The arrival of the A340-600/500 - which has logged 127 firm orders and commitments - marks the entry of Airbus into the passenger capacity range of the rival Boeing 747-400.The A340-600 has a maximum certifiable capacity of 475 passengers.

Other features of the aircraft include the exclusive deal with Rolls-Royce which is supplying the Trent 500 engines, a redesigned wing and extensive use of weight-saving composites in the structure. Airbus claims a 13% saving on maintenance of the Trent 500 as compared with competing aircraft. John Cheffins, president, Civil Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, says: "This has been an exemplary development programme, with all milestones achieved on or ahead of schedule. "The Trent 500 continues to benefit from experience of earlier versions of the engine being fed back into its development. To date, Trent 700 and Trent 800 engines have accumulated 2.7 million flying hours."

With the declaration that the arrival of the A340-600 has ended the Boeing 747's "32-year monopoly", Alan Pardoe reels off a list of advantages enjoyed by airlines that will operate the aircraft, from higher payloads to greater productivity.

He claims a faster climb rate that will see the Airbus aircraft reach 33,000ft (10,000m) in 38 min compared with 70 min for a Boeing 777-300ER. The A340-600 fuselage has been stretched by 20 frames and the wing, from BAE Systems, is 20% larger.

Launched in 1997, the new A340s will enter airline service in 2002. The A340-500 will make its first flight in the first quarter of next year.

Source: Flight Daily News