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New ZAL focuses on innovations in aircraft cabins

Two of ZAL's research fields dedicated to passenger cabins

Modern airline cabins are crucial to passengers when travelling with a particular airline. Of course, positive experiences shape the customers’ relationship with that airline. And the cabin has to endure extreme environmental stress without damage. Airliners cruise at altitudes of 10 to 12 kilometres. At such heights, the temperature outside drops to around minus 55 degrees Celsius. The cabin and its systems must sustain a constant, level of air pressure and interior temperature and tolerate extreme variations in external conditions as the aircraft climbs to cruise altitude or descends for landing.

Not suprisingly, the aircraft cabin is one of the mainstays of Hamburg’s aviation scene. Two departments or technical domains (TDs) at the newly opened Centre for Applied Research in Aviation (ZAL) will focus on providing new solutions for airline cabins.

Testing the cabin as a system

TD 2 “Cabin Innovation and Technology” focuses on the cabin as a complete system. TD 3 “Air & Power Systems” deals with the development and testing of power supply and air conditioning systems namely providing the cabin and its passengers with breathable air, light and heating. Several test facilities support this work. ZAL’s TD 2 operates the “Cabin & Cargo Test Rig”, a specialized test and evaluation environment. This rig is almost 20 metres in length and can accommodate fuselage sections of up to 15 metres in length. These sections can come from almost any kind of airliner currently in service ranging from small jets such as the Airbus A320 to flying giants like the A380. The “Cabin & Cargo Test Rig” allows for a broad range of test and evaluation work. This may entail retrofits to current designs, new combinations of cabin elements already in use, fitting new seats or procedures for boarding and loading. Entirely new designs may also be tested.

Light, air and sound

TD 3 will use the AVANT Test Rig in a huge 700 square metre hall. Although, the AVANT Rig has yet to be erected, it will have enough space for fuselage sections of up to 20 metres in length. Their size may vary from the section of an A320-sized airliner to a medium-sized aircraft such as Airbus’s new A350. The AVANT Test Rig will be used to test electrical systems, air conditioning, heating and lighting. Insulation materials can be evaluated as well. Moreover, the rig can simulate extreme environmental conditions, such as those encountered on flights at high altitudes.

The Acoustic Lab in the Technical Domain 5 “Testing, Safety & Acoustics” also has its role to play with an acoustic chamber that counts among the largest in Europe. Researchers will investigate noise and vibration issues there. The Acoustic Lab allows for research work that is normally carried out aboard an aircraft. However, the costs of airborne research aboard an A380, for instance, can easily come to a hefty EUR100,000. Thus, many medium-sized and small companies problems have problems carrying out the tests themselves. At ZAL, this work can be carried out for a fraction of that sum.

Crystal Cabin Awards

For several years now, outstanding airline cabins have been honored. The Crystal Cabin Awards were initiated by the Hamburg Aviation cluster and is an international prize for excellence in aircraft interior innovation. The winners of the Crystal Cabin Awards 2016 will be announced on April 5, 2016 during the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg.

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