The new moody hues

The new moody hues
The new moody hues

STG Aerospace tells Ed Hill about how its LED mood lighting system improves the on-board experience for passengers, delivers brand differentiation and brings operational benefits for airlines.   There are times when the flying experience is less than perfect. Being cooped up in an aircraft, particularly in the cheap seats on a long haul flight, can aggravate the effects of jetlag or air sickness. In these constrained environments anything that can help passenger comfort has to be utilised by the airlines. After all, it's unlikely a passenger is going to make a repeat booking if every time they travel with an airline they have to reach for a sick bag. The interior of an aircraft is not just the hard surfaces of the side walls, the floor, the luggage bins or the seats; the whole environment including smell, warmth and importantly illumination has a big impact on air travellers. STG Aerospace has been providing lighting solutions for aircraft since 1995. The company was established on its development of photoluminescent technology for its saf-Tglo floor path marking system and saf-Tsign emergency signage solutions. Photoluminescent technology, rather like the dial on a wristwatch, uses chemicals that are charged by daylight or ambient lighting to simultaneously store and emit light. Offering a failsafe solution, saf-Tglo requires no electrical power supply and is automatically activated in low light and dark conditions. <In the mood> In 2011 STG Aerospace introduced its liTeMood LED cabin interior lighting system for retrofitting on aircraft. The system is not only designed to give passengers a more modern experience of lighting, as found in the latest aircraft rolling off the production line, it also offers airlines substantial savings in ongoing costs and maintenance over the legacy fluorescent systems originally installed.  Nigel Duncan, CEO, of STG Aerospace comments: “There was definitely a need in the marketplace for a more aesthetically pleasing, but also much more simplified system. We wanted to modernise and install LED mood lighting in a trouble-free way to create something that offered aesthetically attractive mid-white and blue tones generated with smooth transitions and timings.” For cost conscious airline operators the system has to offer real returns on the investment as well as being installed with as little impact on flying time as possible. “We make the system easy to install, and we minimise the ongoing costs once it's in service,” Duncan continues. “We're focused on the fact that an overnight installation is exactly that. It does not have to be part of a major maintenance check or overhaul. It can be installed under the normal flight routine. In the case of the Boeing 737 it can be pulled in overnight and be back in service in the morning. Also if you look at a 737 or 757 for example, they have at least four possible incumbent fluorescent tube systems originally installed. I believe we're the only company that offers one single solution to replace all four systems in whatever variant they are found.” The development of improved LED technology has made a dramatic effect on what is now possible when lighting aircraft interiors. “We have one example in a luxury cabin environment for a company called La Compagnie. This is an all business class 757 operating out of Paris and London to New York. Obviously the airline has a premium clientele and the airline has been ecstatic about the impact liTeMood has had on the cabin. “I was lucky to fly on the aircraft and watched passengers as they boarded the plane. Ten passengers stopped when they were boarding, looked down the aisle and took a photograph. La Compagnie's beautiful cabin interior, accentuated by high quality lighting, made a positive impression right at the start of their flight.” <All in the eye> So how does an improved lighting environment make flying more agreeable for passengers? “The eye is a very sensitive,” Duncan explains. “It notices the slightest disturbance such as an imperceptibly flickering fluorescent light or if one tube is more yellow in colour than another. The timing of transitions between colours is also important. You can reverse the positive effects of excellent lighting if transitions are too rapid or noticeable. That is why we have paid particular attention to ensuring that there is a homogeneous light spread and deep saturation levels coupled with careful timing of light changes to ensure the maximum positive influence on passenger's well-being. “Key research from Manchester University has shown that it's not the variety of colours that makes the biggest impact on passengers but the saturation levels and depth of colour. There is a place for full colour mood systems in premium environments, but we are primarily aiming to improve the underserved section of the marketplace which is the 94% of passengers that travel in economy. They need good lighting especially because they sit in a smaller restricted environment and minor incremental improvements make a huge difference.” And that market is big. Duncan estimates around 96% of single aisle aircraft flying today still use old style fluorescent lighting. The impact that lighting can have on an airline's brand is also significant. “We approach every airline differently because the way in which they may want to use our system can differ. We have designed a system which is easily adapted for each airline's preference. If they want to change their branding or they just want to make the cabin brighter we can re-program the system on the aircraft using a patented infrared feature that is essentially like a remote control. It means we don't have to access any aircraft systems or change the software.” STG Aerospace also carries out a survey of the aircraft before the installation goes ahead. “It's very important that we know what has happened to an aircraft during its history because the drawings from the OEM won't reflect the changes that happen in the aftermarket, particularly if it's been through several lease cycles; galleys or toilet areas may have been changed.” Duncan explains that branding has also extended to the safety lighting systems that the lighting specialist installs. “Due to the improvement of photo-luminescent materials, we can now offer more than 300 colours for our saf-Tglo strips. In the La Compagnie example, not only did we install the LED overhead and side wall lighting, we also installed our SSUL Super Seal Ultra-Light saf-Tglo on the floor because that was the latest, smallest and lightest version. “In that example it was sleeved in a blue filter to match the branding of the airline. Along the aisle you see a very attractive light that not only looks like part of the airline's brand but is also a safety system which fully adheres to its certification requirements.” STG Aerospace has also developed Photoluminescent technology for applications such as highlighting power points and USB plug-ins on aircraft. <Decreasing discomfort> Duncan quotes the work carried out by German researcher Bubb and the pyramid of discomfort which places lighting only second to noxious smells that causes the most discomfort for passengers. “There is still intense demand for return and investment on anything that is introduced in the cabin area. The costs of the new system have to warrant the benefits. But lighting is an important element for passengers, more important than noise and vibration, or other environmental variables.” He concludes: “We believe that for a relatively small investment you can transform the interior of an aircraft which will make a huge difference to passenger comfort, repeat bookings and influence additional revenue streams which airlines depend on for increased profits, with incremental revenues from drinks and duty free.” www.stgaerospace.com

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