In a Q&A session, Ben McGuire, CEO of the UK’s leading commercial aircraft seating manufacturers, Mirus Aircraft Seating explains how the company’s uniquely British design philosophy, combining classical cues and elegance ensures it meets the requirements of today’s customers.
Founded in 2015, Mirus is one of the UK’s leading commercial aircraft seating manufacturers, bringing together the technologies, expertise, and best practices from the automotive and aerospace sectors to deliver innovative, high-performance seating products. The company says it adopts a British design philosophy, combining classical cues and understated elegance with modernity, confidence, and dynamism. Its state-of-the-art production system is intertwined with a ground-up approach to high-quality product development and supply chain management.
Q) Firstly, please bring me up to speed with your latest news regarding your recent facility upgrade?
We are thrilled to have been given grant approval for an extension of our current site in Norfolk, to build the largest commercially available aircraft seating test facility in the UK.
The brand-new 407m² facility, which will be an extension to Mirus’ current 2,500m² head office site, will feature the latest in aircraft testing technology and have the largest capacity currently in the market. The addition of our very own in-house testing facility is a momentous milestone for Mirus and a significant investment in the local economy.
This will improve our capabilities right across the business, by reducing programme lead-times, increasing our technical knowledge, and strengthening our overall competence. Construction of the new site began in September 2021, with the official opening scheduled for July 2022.
Q) What specific areas of the interior are you involved with?
Mirus specialises in the design and manufacturing of aircraft seating. Our launch product is the Mirus Hawk, incorporating unique patented technologies and best practices learned from next-generation R&D programmes. Lightweight, slimline and cost-effective, the Hawk is designed to enhance the passenger experience and lower total cost of ownership.
Q) What is driving the types of aircraft interior trends and demands placed on your company by today’s customers?
Densification is key to many airline clients who wish to fit as many customers as possible on board their aircraft, without compromising on safety, comfort, storage, or excessive weight. Reducing emission levels is also a priority.
The Mirus Hawk seat is our solution to this challenge – it is lightweight, slim, and ideal for higher density cabins. Our clients also want the ability to customise their seat – we provide a host of options for bespoke tailoring of the seat to meet specific requirements.
Q) How important are aerospace (FAR) legislations, flight safety critical issues, fire, smoke, toxicity (FST) issues and lightweighting, to name a few, during the design stage?
The selection of materials to meet regulatory requirements is an intrinsic part of material selection during our design phase, as is our focus on achieving lighter weights. We have spent a considerable amount of time researching and developing the best materials for our seats. Sustainability of materials is also a key driver in what we choose to work with – we are currently offering the choice of a synthetic lightweight leather, which is very durable and does not retain any moisture. The environmental impact of synthetic leather production is much less than real leather. Mirus continues to review alternative material options to ensure maximum performance.
Q) Do you sometimes need to almost adopt a kind of ‘Feng Shui’ visualisation of the cabin interior to create the right impression for passengers, so they feel like they are ‘flying in their home’?
We create realistic representations of aircraft cabins so our customers make well-informed choices concerning design and layout, and so they can accurately visualise the final product. Mirus has a robust client consultation process to ensure our seats meet the bespoke requirements of our airline customers.
Q) Is there a particular aircraft interior success story you can share without breaking any non-disclosure agreements?
In our very first delivery of the Mirus Hawk, we collaborated with AirAsia to design a bespoke seat that complemented their unique technical specifications and distinct brand image, plus contributed to a >200 tonne saving in annual CO2 emissions per aircraft. The bespoke Hawk seat features in AirAsia’s fleet of Airbus A320 ceo, and A321 neo aircrafts. Client feedback continues to be very positive.
Q) What kinds of aircraft interior developments will we be seeing in the future?
We will see further change in bringing the technologies we see in our homes into aircraft interiors, to provide a seamless transfer from home to transport, and through to destination. This will inevitably increase the demand for more space, comfort, and modern design.
Our uniquely British design philosophy, combining classical cues and understated elegance with modernity and dynamism, will ensure we meet the rapidly developing desires of today’s consumers and our clients. From our clients’ perspective – we expect reliability, sustainability, lower life cycle costs and speed to market will remain at the forefront of decision making.
Q) What do you feel are the most important assets of a company?
We are a young, ambitious company, focused on making a difference within the industry and pushing the boundaries in aircraft seating development. We believe in our people and look beyond just our industry to seek alternative ideas and perspectives, to improve our strategies and way of thinking.
We’re very excited about our new testing facility, which will rival some of the very best facilities across Europe. The facility will feature a state-of-the-art, dynamic test sled, which is a bespoke device used for destructive or non-destructive crash test replication. Designed for high-impact testing of automotive, aerospace, motorsport and rail vehicles, the 30m long device is the most technologically advanced available. This will improve our capabilities right across the business, by reducing programme lead-times, increasing our technical knowledge, and strengthening our overall competence – it’s safe to say that we are optimistic for Mirus’ future.
Q) What differentiates your company from the competition and why should a customer use you over your nearest rival?
Mirus prides itself on industrial reliability, speed, and scalability thanks to our fully integrated production facility. The lead-time for our seats is a competitive 10-12 weeks (assuming no modification is required). We also hold a limited number of seats in stock to offer a fast-track dispatch service for immediate client needs.
We forge strong interpersonal relationships with our clients that go beyond the manufacturing stage to provide long-lasting aftercare and trust, by offering the most generous and transparent warranty policy available on the market. The ‘Mirus Care Extended Warranty’ offers lifetime care for a highly competitive annual fee – which is second to none in the industry.
Q) What have you been doing to get through the pandemic crisis, i.e. getting advice on furloughing employees, grants, funding, etc.?
We are pleased to be in a growth phase, with our new testing facility the next big project for us. We were given grant approval in July 2021 by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership Growing Business Fund, towards the construction of the new facility. As such, we’re currently on a recruitment drive to fill a number of highly skilled roles in the business, across engineering, technical and project management.
Our greatest help is the belief our shareholders have in our long-term future, and their optimism that we would come out of the crisis stronger than before. Their faith in the business has carried Mirus through what has been a really challenging period for the industry. As a young brand, our flexibility and agility has also been key to navigating through the difficult times of the pandemic.
Q) Should companies be using this pandemic-enforced downtime to ‘reset’ and look at how efficiently they are running their businesses?
Certainly. The pandemic has been challenging for all those in the travel industry. We continued to develop products until mid-2020, however due to the pandemic and resulting impact on the travel industry, we unfortunately had to put manufacturing on hold for some time.
The pandemic provided time for reflection, and we are in a new phase now - we have realigned our focus and are very proud to be expanding our Norfolk site with a state-of-the-art new testing facility. We’re very grateful to be moving in the right direction.
Q) Do you have any positive ‘good news’ stories that your company has performed, i.e. pivot to manufacture PPE for the medical sector, etc.?
During the pandemic, we utilised our resources and manufactured PPE in the form of face visors to our staff and one of our key suppliers. We also upcycled seat parts into aero-art office seats, which we then sold and donated the profits to The East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Q) Are there any positives in general to come out of all this?
The pandemic gave us time to understand and reflect on what we had achieved since our inception six years ago in 2015. We used that understanding to improve on operational aspects, to ensure that when air travel returns, we’re 100% ready to service our customers to our best ability.
The additional time to think and plan also allowed us to redefine our growth strategy, and with the support of our shareholders, begin our expansion as a global company. The first tangible aspect of this growth is the dynamic test facility, while other developments will be announced in the coming months.
Q) What kind of industry landscape are we faced with now that everything is slowly getting back to normal?
It’s hard to predict at this stage, but all signs suggest there is huge pent-up demand to travel. When global travel restrictions allow for more free-flowing international movement, we are confident that travel volumes will return to pre-pandemic numbers. Exactly when this will happen is difficult to speculate, but Airbus has indicated 2023 for single aisle aircraft and 2024 for twin aisle aircraft, which helps guide us.
We’ve been closely monitoring the trend of start-up airlines taking advantage of cheap aircraft lease deals – these new airlines are ideal customers for Mirus, so we see ample opportunity there.
Q) Would you say that your long-standing partnerships have brought huge benefits, particularly as trusted relationships can lead to a better way forward for all?
Absolutely, and it goes both ways - the suppliers that have supported us through the difficult times we remain loyal to, and in turn, the airlines we support have been incredibly loyal to us. As anyone in the airline industry will understand, fostering relationships is paramount to the success of business.