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.

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