The Future Of Aviation! As World Focuses On Hypersonic, ‘Floating’ Aircraft Cabin Could Be The Next Big Concept

The aviation industry strives for innovation to make flights more comfortable and attractive for travelers. The Crystal Cabin Awards is the only international award that honors excellence and innovation in aircraft interior designn.

The prestigious aviation awards were presented at a ceremony held in Hamburg, Germany, in conjunction with the 2022 Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX).

The winners of this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards include a design for “floating” aircraft furniture and a cabin concept that might provide each passenger with a personal refrigerator.

Lukas Kaestner, head of the Crystal Cabin Award Association, told CNN Travel at the awards that a team of industry professionals spent a day examining each proposal before making their judgment. The judges debated the proposals’ inventiveness and brilliance, as well as the reactions of airlines and potential passengers.

According to Kaestner, not all finalists’ innovations are on the market or close. Many of them are still just concepts. But, as he adds, “the underlying question of most jury decisions” is — “Is it something that has a realistic chance to fly?”

‘Floating’ Cabin Furniture

The 24 contenders were narrowed down to eight winners from a lengthy shortlist, with Teague and NORDAM’s Elevate cabin design, which envisions a premium cabin filled with “floating” seats, gaining first place in the Cabin Concepts category.

Elevate was one of the entries that drew the utmost media attention in the run-up to the award ceremony on June 14, with industry insiders and non-trade journalists eagerly anticipating the results.

Elevate by Teague
Elevate by Teague

The primary objective of the concept was to provide narrow-body airline passengers with the privacy and exclusivity of a wide-body premium experience.

The goal is to offer premium passengers single-aisle seats with a meaningful sense of space ownership while maintaining airline seat capacity.

Other advantages of the Elevate idea include less weight, which reduces fuel consumption, and simpler components that are easier to maintain. The 2022 Crystal Cabin Award for Cabin Concepts was given to the team by the jury.

Collins Aerospace “SpaceChiller”

The passenger comfort category of innovations aims to provide a sense of exclusivity and luxury to all passengers, irrespective of whether they are in first or economy class. The winner in the Passenger Comfort category this year was Collins Aerospace’s SpaceChiller.

Providing consumers with chilled snacks and drinks within arm’s reach has been challenging. The designer’s claim that the fridge would utilize half the power of conventional airplane fridge designs piqued the Crystal Cabin jury’s interest.

Its modular architecture provides a superior customer experience while providing airlines with greater flexibility regarding services and crew workstations. SpaceChiller, designed especially for premium seat classes, can be scaled in size as needed, which impressed the jury.

A business class suite of an aircraft is showing the Crystal Cabin Awards winning entry the Spacechiller
A business-class suite of an aircraft is showing the Crystal Cabin Awards winning entry the Spacechiller

It allows airlines to offer self-service catering sections to passengers without affecting flight attendant workspaces or passengers’ personal space. The leading technology of SpaceChiller is a heatsink developed for DARPA.

The quiet thermoelectric cooling system runs at higher efficiency and provides better performance in a smaller space than was previously conceivable, all without using environmentally unfriendly refrigerants.

Fostering New Ideas

In the University category of the Crystal Cabin Awards, the next generation of aviation designers submits their visions for the future of flying. Kaestner told CNN Travel, “it’s always intriguing to see where former nominees in this category end up.”

Some, like Alejandro Nunez Vicente, shortlisted in 2021 for his double-decker airplane seat, went on to found their start-up. Ken Kirtland of the Georgia Institute of Technology is the winner of this year’s University category for his concept of Portal. This zero-emission electric aircraft would cruise at lower altitudes and use underused regional airports.

Kirtland’s design attracted the judges’ attention since airline passengers increasingly demand more sustainable solutions, and the industry is compelled to address the stark reality of its carbon footprint.

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Portal envisions a new form of zero-emission electric-powered aircraft that would transport people between local hubs; the plane would have a range of 1000 miles and be able to carry 30+ passengers.

Another feature that the jury praised was the layout of the Portal cabin. All the interior seats are premium, with panoramic views out the windows. Seating is set throughout the cabin to facilitate access and take advantage of the spectacular views through the expansive windows.

While flying at a low altitude, the system would also reap the benefits of the slower airspeed by providing a more immersive, soothing flight experience. This proposal offers an appealing glimpse of regional flight’s future.