Lufthansa Innovations Has A Bag Of New Toys

 - July 1, 2011, 4:08 AM

Having Lufthansa Technik show up at an aviation trade show is a bit like having Santa Claus show up at the company party with a bag of toys, and this year’s Ebace was no exception.

It began in 2009 with the opening of the Hamburg, Germany company’s new Innovations Business Unit where, according to LHT chairman August Henningsen, “Concepts for future standards in aircraft cabins will be created.” In just the last few months, there has been an ergometer (stationary bicycle) approved by the EASA, a new and more comfortable executive aircraft mattress and a much-improved emergency cabin strip lighting system.

Nice. And at this year’s Ebace Lufthansa Technik showed off its networked, integrated cabin equipment system, also known as “Nice.” Only this year’s iteration is a major upgrade dubbed “Nice HD.” It offers a significant weight saving, more powerful hardware and, according to Innovations director Andrew Muirhead, “the number of new features it will support is a quantum leap over the old system.”

Advanced Cabin Systems

The Nice HD, installed in a Challenger 300, would weigh about 100 pounds less than the original Nice, said Muirhead. The weight loss is the result of a lighter housing, smaller electronics due to progress in chip technology and more integration of LRU (line replaceable unit) features. In addition, the Nice HD system wiring saves another 25 percent in weight.

But don’t expect LHT to reveal all its “Nice” secrets–at least not until the NBAA Convention this fall. “We’re letting the cat out of the bag slowly,” said Muirhead. The first Nice HD upgrade is scheduled for aircraft installation in the first quarter of next year.

Since more passengers are boarding business jet cabins with their own entertainment, LHT has taken notice and at Ebace introduced its own iPhone and iPad app, which will allow the passenger to control all cabin functions through those personal devices.

Remote maintenance is also part of Nice HD and available as an upgrade to Nice systems already in service. At its heart is a small box with a 3G cellphone connection to LHT maintenance anywhere in the world whenever the aircraft is on the ground, “as long as there is an available cell network.”

“In some cases,” said Muirhead, “the system may recognize an issue and contact maintenance” before the operator even recognizes a problem.

So what is this nifty remote maintenance system called? “Nice Mate,” of course. The first package was installed in late April.

The Innovations Business Unit may not be Santa’s workshop, and Muirhead, lacking beard and belly, might bear only the most faint resemblance to Santa Claus. But he does laugh when he acknowledges that in addition to the “toys” shown at Ebace, there are more still in the bag, “to keep the competition busy.”