Airbus has been to cornering the market on key patents for seat designs clearly intended to protect various special applications and technologies–raising the question of whether the aircraft manufacturer plans to spread its capacities (and its catalogues) to design and sales of Airbus seating.
One recent introduction is a much needed improvement to the challenge of safely carrying children onboard aircraft, under Airbus patent DE 10 2008 036 253 A1 (US 6474732 B; GB2407968A).
The design involves a flip-up cushion element which would allow infants and children to be accommodated either sitting up or lying down.
The design proposal includes an effective and secure 3-point belt system. Something we’d love to see for passengers too.
It’s a great design, and, if it makes it on aircraft, it will be effective protection for infants and small children, improving the passenger experience for those passengers who don’t get a choice about travelling. This design could not come too soon.
This has been a regrettable gap in our industry, resolved by devices parents have to purchase for themselves, and intended to help secure larger children. The biggest advantage of the Airbus child-seat design is that it’s rear-facing. Just as with car seats, rear facing position is double protection for infants and small children. It would provide effective dynamic support for incidents of strong turbulence, or in the event of impact.
In truth, rear-facing seats on aircraft are far safer for everyone on board. If passengers would buy-into them, airlines would likely consider them, because they would facilitate higher capacity. It’s not all bad. They would be more comfortable to sit on during take off and landing, and provide adult passengers similar effective protection from sudden dynamic shifts either from severe turbulence or impact.
Airbus’ has also kept this considerations in mind with a separate patent DE 10 2013 001 190 A1, a flip-up bottom (a feature Airbus has now included in two separate patents) would make evacuation faster. Clearing the 90 second evacuation time limit, is a key hurdle for certification of aircraft in adding more seats. This doesn’t necessarily translate into a more crowded cabin, or less comfort, especially when seat designs have the ergonomic and pitch considerations these early illustrations present.
While some patents may appear ludicrous to those who take them too literally, and assume all of them are destined for passenger aircraft, these more extreme designs could be hiding secrets. They could serve to protect a particular innovative functional element, rather than the overall design concept. This is fairly common practice in patents which are clever ways of protecting features which might be useful to other applications. We should not assume all these seat designs are intended for commercial aviation.
If all rear-facing seats flip-up seats were introduced for commercial aviation, they would be an improvement to aircraft cabin safety, and speed the boarding process. Both those improvements would be an advantage to passengers. It will still take a brave airline to be the first to try them on for size. That could take a while. It could take long enough to bring these designs to fruition since the development and testing window before getting started on manufacturing and installation, could take the better part of a decade. It could take long enough to pitch and sell them that the passenger mix would shift; including more Millennials and subsequent generations who won’t care one lick for the type of seat so long as that seat comes with free connectivity.
Based on the number and frequency of patents Airbus has filed of late, it could appear the manufacturer plans to compete with its seating suppliers. That doesn’t have to be the case either. Airbus could simply be planning-ahead, to line its coffers with the proceeds from sales of useful technical elements to seat manufacturers eager to incorporate them.
Either way, it’s all good news. Airbus has a clever set of engineers in its ranks, and it’s good to see them apply their considerable knowledge to brainstorm a reimagining of tomorrow’s aircraft cabins.
Whatever Airbus does with all this free-flowing imagination, this clever and much-needed child seat should move to the top of its to-do list.