Hamburg Aircraft Interiors Expo success prompts launch of Expo Asia 2006

 - November 2, 2006, 5:58 AM

Aircraft Interiors Expo, which has grown steadily since its first event in Cannes, France, in 2000, had its sixth annual show last month, and is not only outgrowing its current site at the Hamburg Messe convention center in Hamburg, Germany, but is also expanding with a new interiors show in Hong Kong.

Aircraft Interiors Expo Asia is scheduled for September 14 to 16 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. And according to Tony Robinson, the show’s founder and the CEO of UKIP Media and Events, the Asian event is expected to draw about 80 percent of its visitors from Asian and Pacific Rim nations. In fact, said Robinson, by the middle of last month, 191 airlines had already registered for the Hong Kong show.

Robinson said he expects Expo Asia, like the Hamburg event, will be essentially a regional show. Even though the exhibitors are a worldwide representation of interiors specialists and vendors, the visitors at Hamburg are primarily from Europe, though some have both regional and global business interests. And he noted that while the focus at Expo Asia will remain primarily on the airline market, many of the exhibitors will offer products also appropriate for business aviation operators.

If the Hamburg show in April was any indication, Robinson has accurately assessed the market, and despite an airline emphasis, there is a considerable business aviation presence.

C&D Aerospace, a low-key aircraft cabin specialist in terms of public visibility, has been making its way into business aviation interiors work since 2002. This year the Huntington Beach, Calif. company was a high-profile exhibitor at Hamburg and the subject of a major announcement when French interiors specialist Zodiac revealed “an agreement in principle” to acquire substantially all of the C&D Aerospace assets. Recent C&D acquisition Syair, a cabin lighting specialist, was not among those assets.

C&D has an agreement to provide the interior components for the Eclipse 500 very light jet, with the ambitious goal of creating a kit that will install in just 45 minutes.

On a much larger scale, C&D Aerospace is responsible for most of the cabin in Bombardier’s new Global 5000. Rather than create the cabin component choices as kits at its facilities in California, for shipment to and installation by Bombardier, C&D has a workforce of some 350 interior specialists at Bombardier’s facilities in Montreal. There, C&D builds the interior components in Dorval, including seats and cabinetry, and ships them “just down the road” to the Global Completion Center, where Bombardier technicians install them.

According to Zodiac, based in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, C&D Aerospace had revenues of approximately $400 million last year and projects “substantially higher” revenues for this year. C&D designs and manufactures overhead bins, side panels and seats for most civil aircraft designs and the two companies have cooperated for years on numerous aircraft programs.

Zodiac also owns SICMA Aero Seats of Issoudun, France. With the acquisition of C&D, Zodiac Group’s aircraft interiors revenues for this year are likely to exceed $1 billion.
Zodiac Group said the acquisition price of C&D is “about $600 million and will be financed internally.” Completion of the acquisition is subject to “final documentation, regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.”

B/E Aerospace with Italian Elan

B/E Aerospace was present in Hamburg with its largest exhibit to date, featuring the company’s latest LED (light-emitting diode) cabin lighting, a new business jet cabin mockup and a new, fully reclining executive aircraft seat.

The company was placing an emphasis on its latest LED lighting, promoting a new mix of white and amber diodes designed to replicate the “warmer glow” of traditional incandescent lighting, in a cabin wash or reading light form.

The fully functional cabin mockup was created in partnership with aircraft interior design firm Mauricio Cabal Design of Italy to capture “the vibrant style and élan of Italy…dramatic yet aesthetically pleasing,” said Mark Krosney, business aviation group v-p and general manager for B/E. The mockup also provided a platform to show the practical application of LED lighting technology.

The new Stratas seat has been created in both a manual and electric executive version for business aircraft. It extends to 80 inches when fully reclined, and according to B/E it “fully reclines to a perfectly flat position.” The lift-up seat pan allows easy access to the seat mechanicals, and a 34-percent reduction in parts, said a spokesman, means faster and easier maintenance.

Kvand, a rapidly growing Russian interior completion and refurbishment center with offices in Moscow, made its fourth consecutive appearance at the interiors show, this time with a cabin mockup based on a recent Yak-42 refurbishment. While it specializes in executive/ VIP refurbishment of CIS-made aircraft, such as the Tupolev Tu-134 and Yak-40 and Yak-42, the company is actively courting the Western business aviation market and has been adapting the latest Western technology, including LED mood lighting, into its interior designs.

Also in Hamburg, Aircraft Cabin Systems of Redmond, Wash., announced it has received FAA parts manufacturing approval (PMA) for its 42-inch plasma video monitor, deliveries of which began in January. Shipments of the 50-inch plasma monitor also began in January. The new monitors come standard with currently used composite, S-video, VGA and component video connections.

Hamburg-based Lufthansa Technik offered something new in emergency floor-path markings. Guideline, said a spokesman, offers cabin interior designers a choice of photoluminescent colors that will allow them to more closely match the hue of the carpet. Guideline will come in as many as nine additional colors. At five-eighths of an inch, the strips are half as wide as the existing strips, “yet with the same luminous intensity.” Only when the cabin is darkened do the strips emit their distinctive yellow light.

At the same time, STG Aerospace was promoting a “color-matching service” for its SafTGlo SuperSeal photoluminescent emergency floor path marking system. “This allows customers to work with our design engineers to create a cabin environment in which SafTGlo blends with the décor [in] an extensive variety of colors.” The company, based in Swaffham, Norfolk, UK, said it has FAA and EASA certification for the system on more than 60 aircraft types covered by 22 FAA STCs.

Burnet Interiors of Geneva was at this year’s event and preparing for an even greater presence at next month’s European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in the company’s hometown. The company highlighted a “VIP pack” created for an ATR 42 at the request of a Cuban and a Polynesian government. The modular package allows conversion of the ATR 42 from its typical airliner interior to a “private aircraft” configuration in about four hours. Also being considered is modification of the package that would include more elegant seating and cabinetry, a galley refrigerator and an entertainment system.

Fabrics and Leathers Make a Big Showing

Nearly two dozen leather and fabric vendors displayed at Aircraft Interiors Expo 2005, many of them featuring high-end products appropriate for the private aircraft owner.

Tapis introduced a new Tapis suede with 16 percent stretch, more than double that of previously available Tapis suede. The Armonk, N.Y. company also unveiled a new Tapis suede “heather” brand (which has the appearance of flannel) in 12 colors.

If leather was prominently on display, so were the cleaning and care products for leathers and fabrics–from stain removers to boxed repair kits carrying everything from leather filler and glue to ink lifter and degreaser. The displays by leather and fabric providers left little doubt that owners and operators should seriously reconsider trusting the care and cleaning of their personal jets to the local maid service.

Collonil, a Berlin-based leather- care specialist, took advantage of the show to introduce its new ink-remover starter kit, consisting of a hydrocarbon cleaner and cotton swabs and created specifically for ink stains.

Aircraft Interiors Expo remains, however, primarily an airline show, and it was an airline exhibit that was the biggest draw–a full-scale cabin section mockup of the Airbus A380 double-decker. In Hall 6, the towering fuselage cutaway dominated the scene, with lines of visitors stretching through the aisles, waiting a turn to get a first look at the behemoth’s cabin dimensions.

While it may have been a major attraction, not every exhibitor considered such a major draw to be a necessity for a successful show. Tapis president Patrice LaSusa declared, “This [Aircraft Interiors Expo] is now the only show at which we exhibit; it’s that good.” LaSusa said the company plans to be at the NBAA Convention in October but only to sponsor a private party. “Expo is a very focused event. Everyone who shows up is a potential client, and the organizers treat little guys like us with the same respect and care that they show Airbus,” she concluded.

That’s the point of the show, and a major reason for its success, said Robinson. While Aircraft Interiors Expo 2005 had 8,000 pre-registered visitors, a record 10,000 came through the door by the end of the event. He also noted that with a little more than 400 exhibitors, this year’s show was 20 percent larger than last year’s, and that the total space at Hamburg had doubled since  2002, the first show at the venue.

Asked if he saw EBACE as a competitor of the show, Robinson described it as “not competitive but complementary.”

Aircraft Interiors Expo 2006 will be in Hamburg from April 4 to 6, and Robinson hopes the addition of a new exhibit hall by Hamburg Messe will be complete in time for the show. “If not, demand is likely to outweigh supply for 2006.”