““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
A year ago–or three or five, for that matter–it seemed as if private aircraft already offered just about every imaginable onboard luxury. Nevertheless, designers keep stretching their imaginations and, year after year, they deliver new products that can make your flights even more enjoyable than before. Here’s a look at some of the innovations that have caught our eye in the last 12 months.
Bright Ideas about Blocking Light
Electronically dimmable cabin windows aren’t new. But the iShade iQ from InspecTech Aero Service of Fort Lauderdale takes the technology a step further. It not only allows you to precisely regulate the amount of light entering your cabin–it also employs noise-damping techniques to make the cabin quieter.
In Brignais, France, Vision Systems Aeronautics also has something new in cabin windows: the Dual Comfort Shade, which incorporates two electrical shades in a single system. The first roller shade blocks ultraviolet light and the second blocks all light. The system offers an anti-jamming device and has a manual unlocking feature in case of emergency. The shades, which can be remotely controlled at your seat or from the galley, are available in a variety of fabrics and colors.
From Lou Martin & Associates, meanwhile, comes a pleated shade designed for large areas such as cabin bulkheads and room dividers. Open, it provides a more expansive feel to a compartment. Closed, it allows 100 percent privacy. According to the San Antonio-based manufacturer, the electrically operated shade incorporates both a blackout fabric and sheer fabric. The sheer is designed to keep out ultraviolet light while the blackout choice provides complete darkness. The shades can be customized to include artwork, scenery or a company logo and come in a variety of sizes.
Shut Out the Noise
The trim panel that typically lines the cabin sidewall adds a decorative touch but also vibrates and contributes significantly to interior noise. Pelzer Consult of Zug, Switzerland, has come up with a solution: a trim panel that provides up to 80 percent greater noise absorption than other panels on the market. The company claims the new panel will reduce cabin noise by as much as 10 decibels. That’s approximately the difference between the hum of the average office and the sound of a vacuum cleaner 10 feet from your ear.
Catch the Woven Leather Wave
Woven leathers, which appear to be gathering popularity, offer subtle patterns and textures to match any cabin décor. Edelman Leather of New Milford, Conn., now offers the product in four patterns and three leathers. Townsend Leather in Johnstown, N.Y., meanwhile, touts woven leather that it creates from lambskin, hand-glazes in the U.S. and weaves on antique looms in the Philippines.
Garrett Leather, a supplier of Italian upholstery-grade leather, has introduced Shagarrett, which the Buffalo, N.Y. firm describes as “the only full-grain stingray-embossed Italian leather available in full-hide sizes with no unsightly plate lines.” The technique, according to Garrett, eliminates the stress of “working with and matching half-hides and dealing with unattractive plate marks.” Shagarett hides also have a “dual-tone texture that accentuates the stingray pattern.”
A Doctor in Your Suitcase
Traveling with a medical condition? Your flight may be less stressful if you pack Tempus IC, a six-pound “medical assistant.” The product can transmit information doctors need to remotely identify up to 90 percent of medical conditions, claims the manufacturer, London-based RDT. Features include a touch-screen with video that takes the user step-by-step through every process, an “intelligent” battery-management system to conserve power, a wireless headset and an integral camera. Functions include glucometer; breath gas analysis and respiration; tympanic temperature; blood pressure and pulse oximetry; electrocardiogram; and real-time voice, video and data transmission. So your doctor will be able to give you a pretty thorough exam–even if he’s 41,000 feet below and thousands of miles away.
Let There Be Light
A new LED reading-light bulb offers a direct replacement for the miniature incandescent halogen bulbs common in many business jets. “Absolutely no changes or modifications to the reading-light fixtures are necessary,” according to Aircraft Lighting International, the Mount Sinai, N.Y. company that produces the LED bulbs. In addition to softer white light, advantages include lower power draw, virtually no heat generation and a five-year warranty.
The bulbs cost $35 each, which might sound expensive until you consider that it would cost about $15,000 to change out all the incandescent reading lights in a typically configured King Air and replace them with standard LEDs.
Getting Your Zs
Whether it’s a 14-hour flight from New York to Beijing or a two-and-a-half-hour run from Miami to Baltimore, you can’t overestimate the value of being able to sleep or nap onboard, and more and more business jet cabins are being equipped with that in mind.
Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg, Germany, now offers what it claims is a new standard in sleep comfort with its Flexidreamer mattress. It features a foam core and a recently developed fabric covering and lets users adjust the firmness to suit their preferences. It comes in a variety of standard sizes and can also be customized to virtually any desired contour.
To accompany the Flexidreamer mattress, how about a bed frame and shroud designed to compensate, manually or automatically, for changes in the angle of flight? San Antonio-based Jeff Bonner Research and Development has already delivered three of these and has several more on order. Prices start around $120,000 for the bed frames, which are available in sizes from a king down to a double.
A bed of a different sort comes from San Diego-based JetBed, whose product includes an inflatable foundation, an electric pump, a comfortable foam mattress and a carrying pouch. JetBed produces the beds to fit more than 20 aircraft models, from the Gulfstream G550 to the Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop. Prices range from $4,995 for a Citation light jet to $6,995 for a model to fit between two-abreast facing seats. The entire package for the smallest bed weighs just 14 pounds.
Italian cabin-components specialist Iacobucci is best known for its galley products, such as espresso makers, but the company continues to expand its product line, which now includes executive seats.
Its latest such offering features a 45-inch backrest and is 23 inches wide. The three-way headrest has a wide range of adjustments, including vertical, horizontal and tilting features as well as headrest flaps. The seat offers a fixed-track-fitting installation, 360-degree swivel, multiple-lock drop-down armrest and extendable leg rest, as well as a manually folding footrest.
“The project team developed a seat ergonomically responding to the form of the human body,” said Iacobucci HF Group marketing director Riccardo Palmeri. “The mechanical swivel enhances the useful space while the light structure and smooth movements make it easy to install and maintain.”
Rain on the Plane
A new shower for aircraft, which weighs just 130 pounds, can be outfitted with “rain” showerheads, flexible showerheads and multiple showerheads, and with LED lighting and motion sensors that activate and deactivate the water flow. There’s also a “footrest” that can serve as a seat. (If it were officially listed as a seat, the FAA would require that it be belted for landing and takeoff. Hey, it’s the government. Go figure.) Jeff Bonner Research & Development, which produced the shower, says the next generation of the product will feature outside controls to activate the system and set the water temperature.
Something New Underfoot
A recently introduced carpet from Dallas-based Kalogridis International employs what it calls “fat yarn,” which provides a large “ultra-loop,” resulting in a deeper, more luxurious pile of highs and lows. Incorporated into the carpet, in pretty much any design you want, are fluorescent yarns that come to life when the cabin lights are dimmed.
Also from Kalogridis is a new use for its Deconal 3-D fabric bulkhead coverings. According to designer Liching Liu, the soft-touch, noise-absorbing material is available as a one-piece, single-process application cover for a cabin’s entire interior, from sidewalls to ceiling. It’s about 85 to 90 percent lighter than typical coverings and can be applied to fabric and leather. It comes in more than 500 designs and can also be custom designed to fit a client’s taste.
Napkins on a Roll
An improvement in something as simple as a napkin? Yep. From Hostel Drap, a company in Monistrol de Montserrat, Spain, comes Mydrap, a one-time-use recyclable cloth napkin.
Mydrap, which is sold in rolls, is available in sizes from 8.3 inches square to 15.7 inches square. You can order it in cotton in 13 colors and in linen in seven colors. It is more absorbent and stronger than paper and can be personalized with images and company logos.
A Sound Idea
Can’t fall asleep, even with one of those fancy new mattresses we mentioned earlier? Download Pzizz, a set of 10- to 90-minute soundtracks designed not only to induce sleep, but to awaken and re-energize. The “neural-linguistic” soundtracks–which are programmable and customizable with literally billions of sound combinations, so you never hear the same thing twice–are available on CD or for download from the iTunes Store.