Friday, April 27, 2012

Notable anniversaries

If the airline catering industry is looking for something to celebrate in the coming week, it could be a May 1, 1927 flight between London and Paris of Imperial Airways, the forerunner to British Airways. 

According to the website Plane Talking, May 1 marks the 85th anniversary of the first inflight meal. From all indications it wasn't much to speak of, except for the drinks selection. "Onboard was a small cabinet carrying four gills (servings) of whisky, a dozen bottles of lager beer, two siphons of sparkling water and twelve assorted bottles of mineral water," said the account. 

On the menu were sandwiches and biscuits. 

But if you're looking for something a little more recent to note as April passes into May, it could be the April 6-9, 1997 Conference and Exhibition of what was then the International Inflight Food Service Association (and still IFSA). It was there, we took the first issue of PAX International. With this April, we note 15 years in publishing. Much thanks is owed to our loyal readers and advertisers who have hung with us through the ups and downs of the industry. 

-Rick Lundstrom

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Frontier using social media to choose beers

What will it be – Colorado Native Lager, Crabtree Oatmeal Stout, Dale’s Pale Ale or Upslope Pale Ale?

Friends and followers of Frontier Airlines’ will be making the weighty decision of picking the carrier’s onboard local beer offering from now until May 15.

The airline plans to change beer offerings every other month based on votes logged on its Facebook page. Like so many regions in the United States, Colorado has a lively and growing market of of microbrews. So much so, that MillerCoors has an offering in the running in Colorado Native Lager. 

Frontier already offers several Rocky Mountain State beers including Fat Tire Amber Ale, Blue Moon Belgian White and, of course, Coors Light. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Toward a quieter cabin

ITT's Cabin Interior Isolator

Sure, this year’s World Travel Catering and Onboard Services and Aircraft Interiors Expos had plenty of business news and flashy products, but a few stops among the hundreds of stands gives an observer with enough interest a look at aspects of airline operations that are seldom seen.

A stop at the ITT stand yielded a look inside the guts of an airline seat and a complex power seat actuation system called SkyMotion™  that gives premium class some of its most important comfort features. Also on display was the product of the company’s research into cabin noise, an important part of any discussion, now that two new aircraft boasting quieter cabins are on the market.

Installed behind the trim panels of the 787 Dreamliner is a small part called a cabin interior isolator. For years, ITT, based in Orchard Park, New York, has been tinkering with the makeup of isolators used to dampen the sounds, which contributes heavily to cabin crew and passenger fatigue. An office environment generally hums at about 50 decibels, but an aircraft cabin can have the din of an electronic hair drier, which hits about 70 decibels.

Until recently, solutions to the noise problem have created problems of its own. “You have to throw a ton of weight at noise reduction,” said Jeff Weisbeck, Director of Product Management for ITT Enidine, one of the company’s business units. But that problem was solved somewhat with the company’s development of a small isolator part with a patented rubber component that attaches the cabin interior to the frame of the aircraft. The result has been noise reductions of 5 to 6 decibels in some of the world’s newest aircraft.

Though simple looking, the part reduces the effects of noise at critical frequencies of between 1000Hz and 4000Hz. Its final feature is a quick-attach system that cuts the time needed to install a new interior.

Armonk, New York-based Tapis Corporation, manufacturers polyurethane based faux leather products Ultraleather and TapiSuede. The company brought a new version of the former product to this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo. “It’s a breathable product and it’s very unique,” said Jason Estes, Sales Manager for Tapis Corp. Recently, the company found that its new faux Ultraleather Bolero product has been useful to designers looking to create a quieter airline cabin.

Tapis products can be found on more than 50 airlines around the world. Five of its custom-made products were used on interior of the A380 delivered to Lufthansa in 2010. With a reputation for ease in cleaning and maintenance, Tapis products are part of the interiors on a majority of Embraer regional jets airline programs coming off the production line.

When Tapis products were combined with panels of sound absorbing foam made by a company called Pelzer Acoustic Products in Switzerland, the breathable properties of the Bolero brand coverings allowed sound to travel easily into the absorbing foam. Estes said the sound absorbing qualities make the company’s products ideal for areas of the aircraft such as first class cabins, where airlines seek to create a relaxing and soothing atmosphere for high end travelers.
The company was showing the sound absorption qualities of its new Bolero at this year’s Business Jet Interiors World Expo in Cannes.

“Basically…there’s less mental and physical fatigue due to the noise as well as more privacy for the passengers and crew,” Estes said.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Iconic airline, iconic aircraft

My first flight on a 747 took place from Los Angeles, 11 hours on to Narita Airport in Tokyo and continuing an additional eight hours to Singapore. A long but memorable journey in what was then called Raffles Class came to and end when I finally stepped off, a little disoriented, into a balmy Singapore evening in February of 1991. It was my first trip to Asia. 

That's what I was thinking of when I saw that Singapore Airlines held its final 747 flight last week from Changi Airport to Hong Kong. The big, lumbering double-decker seems like something an airline would never want to get rid of. I've made several trips to Singapore since then -- all of them, as I recall involved an ending that had me getting off a 747. 

As is always the case on Singapore Airlines the service was, I'm sure, outstanding. The press release only says that "exquisitely-crafted meals are also being served on board, with First and Business class customers enjoying courses specially paired with premium wines from top producers." It was ever thus with Singapore Airlines. 

SIA had the first delivery of a 747 back in 1972 and at one time was the biggest 747-400 operator in the world with a fleet of 23. "We would not be the airline that we are today if we had not made the bold decision in 1972 to purchase this iconic jetliner," said Mak Swee Wah, Executive Vice President Commercial at Singapore Airlines. 

One can't help but wonder how many other airlines will be following suit over the next several years. As more and more A380s and 787s make their way into long-haul fleets of the world, the 747 will be coming back in a new incarnation in the 747-8, which is flying in a cargo version and will take flight in a passenger model sometime this year. Still, seeing an airline end its association with the big jet is a signal that time, and advancement, marches on.

-Rick Lundstrom 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The making of an ad

While we cannot encourage anyone to play with fire, we wanted to give Adam Williams at digEcor a little publicity for this most recent effort, and wish him well as furthers his education at the University of Wisconsin. 

If you have access to the Aircraft Interiors issue of PAX International, distributed last week in Hamburg you'll see the latest ad for digEcor (The Original Handheld IFE) on Page 25. It appears that the ad was an elaborate effort by Adam and a few dedicated and daring collaborators who endured cold weather and open flames with good humor. 

You can see how he did it on his blog

Adam's last day at digEcor was yesterday. He's heading on the University of Wisconsin -- Madison, home of the fighting Badgers, pursuing an MBA degree in Brand and Product Management. We wish him luck, and expect to see further examples of his creativity in the future.