Industry finds opportunity in downturn

 - May 5, 2009, 5:21 AM

At the opening session of the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2009 in Hamburg last month, a panel of industry executives acknowledged the challenges facing the interiors business during this economic and credit crisis, but they also emphasized the importance of adapting to meet the challenge as an opportunity, while at the same time preparing for the next upswing.

In Chinese, the same word is used for “crisis” and “chance,” said Airbus v-p of cabin and cargo Klaus Röwe. The aircraft interiors industry, he continued, must use innovation to capitalize on the opportunities the economic downturn has created.
Klaus Brauer, director of passenger satisfaction and revenue for Boeing, cautioned, “You can’t let such a time pass without finding the opportunities in it.”

There was ample evidence among the exhibitors, whose products ran the gamut from airliners to private aircraft.

• Rockwell Collins’s cabin electronics division, based in Tustin, Calif., has yet to formally name its latest Version 2, 3-D moving-map enhancement but nevertheless had the system on display.

• Lufthansa Technik, based in Hamburg, showed off its NiceView “infotainment” package, which won first place in the Crystal Cabin Awards competition in the entertainment and communication category.

• Design Q, the London-based interior creations specialist, revealed it has teamed with engineering from Case4de of Hamburg to produce an executive interior proposal for the Airbus A380 purchased by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdul Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

• Chameleon Products of Bristol in the UK unveiled an improved decorative film technology that is 300 percent lighter than wood veneer, and added that the company is working on a 3-D version of the same technology.

• Among the more eye-catching exhibits was that of EAD Aerospace of Tournefeuille, France, which was showing views of a completed Falcon 900 with art deco interior. Also on display was a partial cabin mockup of an airplane with sidewalls in red fabric, gold window trim, a Louis XIV gilt wood table and a bulkhead-mounted Louis XVI clock.

According to Reed Exhibitions, which organized the annual event, “Figures for Aircraft Interiors Expo remained steady this year in spite of the uncertain economic outlook for the aviation industry.” Event director Katie Murphy said the show drew 7,993 visitors, down slightly from the 8,080 who attended last year. She added that
the total number of exhibitors remained virtually unchanged, although the total exhibition square footage was up “considerably,” driven by the number of clients opting for a larger space this year.

The 2010 Aircraft Interiors Expo is scheduled for May 18 to 20, again at the Hamburg Messe convention center. As for 2010, event director Murphy said levels of interest in next year’s show are at about the same as for the 2009 expo, “even though there is currently much hesitancy in the aviation sector.”