Airbus, British Airways partner on new F1-inspired business class seat

Advanced Formula One technology is making its way into the business class cabins.

By David Flynn , September 23 2019
Airbus, British Airways partner on new F1-inspired business class seat

At first glance, the cramped and noisy cockpit of a Formula One racer and the cosy cocoon of a business class seat would appear to have little in common, except perhaps speed – where, ironically, that business class seat in flight can be travelling three times as fast as a record-breaking F1 run down the straight.

But the two share a dash of common DNA such as the use of carbon-fibre composites, and that trend looks set to continue under a partnership between JPA Design and Williams Advanced Engineering, part of the Williams F1 Group.

The shape of seats to come?
The shape of seats to come?

The two cutting-edge firms are working together to evolve F1 materials into the aircraft cabin, with the aim of delivering what JPA describes as "a step-change in cabin layout, passenger comfort (and) fuel-saving... through the application of new interior design and lightweight materials."

It’s an effort backed by Airbus and British Airways, which have joined a consortium to develop new lightweight aircraft seating for business class and premium economy that will be ready to fly by the early 2020’s.

This 'composite concept' shows a modular design which airlines could customise.
This 'composite concept' shows a modular design which airlines could customise.

The plan is to evolve F1 materials into the aircraft cabin, with the aim of delivering what JPA Design describes as "a step-change in cabin layout, passenger comfort (and) fuel-saving... through the application of new interior design and lightweight materials.”

The coolest middle seat in the sky: JPA Design business class seats frame the ROKiT Williams Racing FW42.
The coolest middle seat in the sky: JPA Design business class seats frame the ROKiT Williams Racing FW42.

JPA's most recent effort for Singapore Airlines – the second-generation Airbus A380 business class seat (below already wrapped in a light but strong composite-fibre shell.

Singapore Airlines' new Airbus A380 business class, by JPA Design
Singapore Airlines' new Airbus A380 business class, by JPA Design

JPA Design is already showcasing a composite seat structure shaped by proprietary materials processes and expertise by Williams. "In spite of all the brilliant innovations that we have seen introduced onboard commercial aircraft over the last 20 years,” suggests James Park, Founder and Principal of JPA Design, “it has nonetheless taken a remarkably long time for the acceptance of new materials and new engineering methodologies to be adopted in the aircraft interiors industry.” 

JPA's starting point is this mock-up of a modular composite seat developed with Williams Advanced Engineering.
JPA's starting point is this mock-up of a modular composite seat developed with Williams Advanced Engineering.

The consortium aims to further evolve this technology to develop new lightweight seats in an effort to slash fuel bills and carbon emissions, with the potential to extend aircraft range as airlines contemplate swapping stop-overs for direct routes.

Composite-based design could also mean the seats would also save space – in turn making more room available to passengers in critical areas such as legroom and below-seat stowage – as well as enable airlines to indulge in “more bespoke creations” as a point of difference from their competitors.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.