Luxury cars inspire Learjet 85 cabin

 - December 1, 2008, 5:56 AM

While Bombardier’s split with Grob on the Learjet 85 program was one topic of conversation at the NBAA Convention in October, it was that aircraft’s cabin mock-up that was clearly turning heads.

The entire mock-up came together in just 12 weeks. The design can best be described as bold, even daring, for a midsize corporate jet, with splashes of aluminized interior surfaces, wild- patterned carpet, glossy black piano wood accents and cabinets, flowing oval and curved shapes, and hand-stitched white leather seats that looked as if they came from a new Bentley Continental.

The futuristic British automotive flair is no accident. Bombardier enlisted Design Q, the UK consultancy best known for automotive styling work on supercars such as Aston Martin, Ferrari and Maserati; the firm also works on mega-yachts and VIP and luxury airline interiors for a variety of different fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Design Q has previously worked with Bombardier on the design of the new Vision flight deck for the Global XRS that made its debut at NBAA 2007. That design “went down so well that we were automatically considered to look at the [new] Learjet program,” said Design Q principal Howard Guy.

Transitioning from supercars to corporate jets was a logical progression, said Guy. “We found it a natural step getting into aircraft interiors, but the quality perception you have in high-end automobiles–the tightness of the upholstery and attention to detail–doesn’t exist yet in the aircraft world. We bring that to our aircraft interior designs,” Guy said.

On the Learjet 85, “Our first objective was to make the interior as big as possible by playing all the tricks you can to maximize space,” said Guy. “You want to create the impression that it is a much bigger jet than it really is.”

For a midsize, the 85’s cabin

is already capacious: 24.75 feet long, 73 inches wide and six feet tall, yielding 665 cubic feet of passenger space and 130 cu ft of luggage stowage, including three large cabin closets with a combined 30 cu ft of storage. Several different configurations will be available, including eight single executive seats in a double-club layout or single seats and a three-place divan. The single seats are pitched at 30 inches and recline into full-berthing positions. (A maximum of four can be berthed at any one time.) The divan and the berthing seats reflect the Learjet 85’s transcontinental/transatlantic design range. This longer-legged Learjet also features a full galley and an aft cabin lavatory. Like several other contemporary cabin designs, the 85 will feature larger passenger cabin windows, 12 by 16 inches each, and more monolithic, streamlined headliners and sidewalls.

Cabin Innovations

But both Bombardier and Design Q wanted to take the cabin a step further, and the aircraft’s all-composite structure provided plenty of opportunity for innovation. “There are definitely internal [space] gains from the composite construction, the sidewalls, and the rest of it,” said Guy. Rather than running the sidewall ledges down the entire length of both sides of the cabin, Design Q proposed molded structures that flanked only the immediate area next to the seats. The sidewall basically starts and stops and contains integrated stowage nooks big enough to hold briefcases molded into the sidewalls themselves, as well as cabin controls, ledge space and sidewall table stowage.

“Very often there is nowhere to put a briefcase, a newspaper or anything,” said Guy, “even in the big VIP jets. With this design you can store a medium-sized briefcase along the side of the seat in the sidewall.”

Designers left open the space between the seats, creating a more open and airy look and more legroom. Similarly, oval-shaped units containing gaspers, reading lights and drop-down oxygen masks protrude from the cabin ceiling over individual seats, rather than running the full length of the ceiling. In the mock-up, the ovals are inset with glossy black piano wood.

Seats were another area where Bombardier and Design Q were looking to make changes. “We became increasingly frustrated looking at the seats that were out there–square and dull and not that comfortable either,” Guy said.

Design Q fashioned highly contoured seats with armrests that retract into the seat backs, an idea Guy and his colleagues got from the pilot seats while working on the Global XRS Vision cockpit. “It gives occupants a choice,” Guy said. They can have a big seat without the armrests or a somewhat narrower seating area when the armrests are deployed.

Some of the cabin’s other design touches are somewhat whimsical, such as the back-lit cup and phone holders in the sidewall ledges. Those structures are made from a nylon-like material that allows light to pass through the bottom and illuminate the drink glass. Guy calls it “a little surprise and delight thing.”

Seat pedestal stowage drawers that open into the aircraft aisle are significantly easier for passengers to access while seated. They are big enough to hold a laptop computer.

The mockup’s stark black and white interior is designed to draw attention to its unique design, but other color schemes will be available.

Cabin lighting complements the shapes of the sidewalls and overhead units, Guy said. “The light panels are a series of shapes related to what is underneath. It minimizes the perceived lighting area, creates definite zones within the cabin, and makes the overall cabin look larger.”

The Learjet 85 is not scheduled to enter service until 2012 and designing for a product so

far out forced Design Q to focus on fundamentals, said Guy. “We don’t use a design language that is something of the moment or a particular time frame,” Guy said.

Learjet general manager David Coleal said Bombardier has tapped C&D Zodiac to serve as the Learjet 85’s cabin integrator and provide key passenger cabin components. The mock-up was a collaborative effort among Learjet, C&D and Design Q. Coleal said that the 85’s cabin has 19 percent more cabin volume than its closest competitor and praised the aircraft’s cabin design. “We think we hit a sweet spot in the marketplace,” he said.