In the past, LED (light-emitting diode) lighting was just one small piece of the total cabin lighting puzzle, said Rod Stoehr, general manager of B/E Aerospace’s Holbrook, N.Y. facility near Long Island MacArthur Airport. “Now we’re offering the whole LED package.”
That package includes indirect-wash cabin lighting, adjustable overhead reading lights, and flexible-arm reading lights.
LED, said Stoehr, offers a number of advantages over the typical fluorescent, halogen and incandescent lighting currently found in business aircraft cabins. Among them are lower power requirements, less heat generation, lighter weight, easier maintenance, more realistic color, a considerable increase in longevity and, finally, lower cost as LED technology becomes more widely accepted.
In the past, LED lighting has been installed primarily in adjustable reading lamps, an improvement over halogen and incandescent lamps that often become so hot the user could be burned just attempting to adjust the housing. “The LED produces so little heat that you could actually touch the light itself,” said Stoehr.
Now B/E Aerospace has expanded LED to include its use in overall cabin lighting, with a couple of advantages. Much of the undirected light of fluorescent bulbs used to provide overall cabin light is wasted, noted Stoehr. The LEDs, however, can be packaged in a lens assembly not only to direct the light, but help protect it from bumps and condensation.
LED can also be easily adapted to a bizjet cabin management control system to allow as many as four lighting zones and up to six memories, so that different lighting “scenes” or “pages” may be programmed. One option might be a scene with the basic cabin lighting dimmed while the forward galley and entrance lighting remains brighter.
B/E also has STCs and PMAs pending on a flexible-arm reading lamp. “We’ve already gotten field approvals and several have been installed,” said Stoehr.
One of the nicer aesthetic features of total LED lighting is that you get “good, clean, white lighting” that is most comparable to real daylight. “No one wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on cabin designs and fabrics and leathers, just to have the effect diminished, or even ruined, by poor lighting.”
As for maintenance, Stoehr told Aviation International News that not only do LEDs last 10 to 12 times longer than other types of lighting, they’re no more complicated to replace when they do burn out than a fluorescent bulb. As for cost, said Stoehr, LED is currently the equivalent of existing lighting, “but as it becomes more widespread, the price will come down.”
Seeking Refurb Biz
At this point, B/E is primarily in pursuit of the after-market owner looking at a cabin refurbishment and upgrade. But the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company has also been actively negotiating with OEMs and hopes to announce “several” launch customers in the near future.
The cabin lighting division at Holbrook was initially incorporated into the growing B/E Aerospace family of business aviation products when B/E bought Aerospace Lighting Corp. in the fall of 1998. At that time, B/E founder and chairman Amin Khoury described the move as “an important step in our strategy of leading the consolidation of the general aviation cabin interior products market.” Then, the Holbrook company was providing cabin lighting for about 87 percent of new business jets, including those from Boeing, Bombardier, Cessna, Falcon Jet, Israel Aircraft Industries and Raytheon.
The same year B/E acquired seating and interior components specialist Aircraft Modular Products and Puritan-Bennett’s air and oxygen flow valve business. Today, B/E Aerospace produces a complete line of interior components, from cabinetry and entertainment systems to seats and lighting.
“The LED was the piece that solved the puzzle of ideal cabin lighting,” said Stoehr, “and it’s another piece in the larger puzzle of creating the perfect total-cabin environment.”