If we talk about advances in aviation, what kind of images come to mind? The next futuristic concept of a jumbo jet? Flying cabs? Aerial backpacks?
That’s the kind of inventions that attract headlines, but many are still fantasies. While you can see the odd prototype on television, regular travelers like you and me probably never get close to one in reality, at least not in the near future. For most of us, the innovations that are already transforming our air transport are much more discreet. In fact, we almost do not perceive them, but they are happening constantly.
Air travel is changing rapidly so that it often escapes our eyes, and many of the big changes are taking place inside the cabin.As there are more and more travelers and competitiveness among airlines grows, the most important innovations are almost never the most glamorous. On the contrary, they are usually behind-the-scenes improvements that increase our comfort and the effectiveness of the airline, while at the same time giving them an avant-garde image.
The annual Crystal Cabin Awards value inventors and designers who created ingenious ideas to improve the experience inside the cabin, both for passengers and for the crew. The innovations that win the prize this year are likely to be added to your next flight. So, what kind of devices can we expect and how will they change the way we travel?
A traffic light on the plane
One of my favorite innovations did not win an award this year but I’m sure it will soon be standard on all major airlines.As frequent travelers know, hand luggage is a nightmare. On flights that are full it takes a lot of time to put all the suitcases in the compartments and in this industry, every minute that is spent on land is money lost. To help solve this growing problem, a company called Zodiac Aerospace has devised something called ECOS Baggage System. Like all the best ideas, it is relatively basic.
A green light on each compartment turns on when there is still space inside and only turns off when it is full. On the other hand, the cabin staff has a handheld device that shows logos in red, amber and green for each compartment depending on whether it is full, half full or empty.
Its manufacturers estimate that this simple system can increase capacity by almost 40% and also accelerates boarding.
Some very expensive slides
The European manufacturer Airbus created another type of pioneering sensor to eliminate a common and expensive error. Apparently, when the cabin crew opens the doors of the plane, due to fatigue or stress they sometimes mistakenly activate the emergency evacuation slide.
Interestingly, this human error costs the industry about the US $ 38 million per year worldwide. The Watchdog sensor alerts workers every time there is movement near the handle, an ingenious addition that can save precious airlines millions of dollars a year.
The least glamorous part of flying
The ReTrolley is a reinvention of the rough cabin car, but smaller and more efficient: it can compress the garbage as it moves.
The Airbus ReTrolley is half the size of a regular cart, but it recycles the trash of the passengers as the hostesses push it through the cabin.
It has a pedal to compress larger objects and separate compartments for liquid and organic waste. On the other hand, going to the bathroom is not an activity that delights us when we fly, but it is an essential experience for passengers. The Revolution Toilet from Zodiac Aviation is made of recyclable materials and is 30% lighter than other toilets. It also has a cistern system that uses a third less water and is also more hygienic.
And speaking of bathrooms, aiming to make flights more inclusive, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences developed a wheelchair that can join l toilet.Unless you use a wheelchair or take care of someone who needs it, you probably have not thought about the challenge of using the bathroom on a plane for a person with a physical disability.
That’s why Hamburg researchers developed a customizable wheelchair with a special seat that fits directly over the toilet, turning an uncomfortable odyssey into a manageable routine.
But there are also all kinds of interesting innovations on the way.
Diehls Aerospace, in collaboration with the Lucerne University of Arts and Applied Sciences, found a way to combine the recharge and data cables into one.
The result is a remarkable reduction in the tangle of cables that go on the plane, which reduces its weight and volume and therefore also fuel consumption as well as CO2 emissions.On the other hand, the Technological University of Delft invented a Bluetooth device called Myseat that guides passengers from the check-in desk to the plane.
However, it is a most prosaic development that probably proves to be the most practical and durable.
Airbus and Recaro have placed the seats on rails, so that the crew can adjust their configuration depending on the load of the different classes on different flights.
The best thing is that the seats can also be folded. It is such an obvious idea that one wonders how anyone came up with it before. But surely someone said the same thing when the wheel was invented.