Carmen Krause, Crystal Cabin Award Project Director, talks to Dr Holger Friehmelt, Head of Institute, Institute of Aviation at FH JOANNEUM Graz (University of Applied Sciences) & Crystal Cabin Award Judging Panel Member.
Carmen Krause: Hello Holger, you are currently leading the aviation institute of FH JOANNEUM in Graz, Austria; before you have been working for many years for Recaro, where you were in charge of product management and later in management functions in the U.S. and South Africa. You have been Member of the Crystal Cabin Award Judging Panel since the first day in 2006. What is your expertise in aircraft interior?
What are the challenges in this field looking at passenger experience? What are the challenges for the customer?
There is always the challenging counter-balance between the different stakeholders involved. In a very simplified manner: Customers want comfort and most important of that: living space, airlines have to generate revenue and profit and thus cannot afford too much weight, and aircraft manufacturers hate too many too individual solutions onboard their aircraft (making certification and maintenance very challenging sometimes).
You have seen all the entries for the CCA from the beginning on. What is, in your mind, the development of aircraft interiors within the Awards until now?
With many entries, we have seen a much stronger focus on the real needs of the aircraft interiors communities. These recent entries are not simple stand-alone ideas but they are nicely merged current trends.
From your point of view, what is your vision? How will this evolve within the next 20 years, in the best case?
I think we will see even further differentiated types of commercial travel. A past example is the highly successful and now commonly accepted introduction of premium economy. Novel ideas for ancillary revenue by the airplanes. Concepts to have pax pay for their individualized service package will certainly arise. A first indication is the introduction of the “light” fare for which you have to pay extra for checked in luggage.
But even more important for the interiors industry from my point of view is the never ending thrive to improve efficiency of the transportation system. I think (and also hope for such Crystal Cabin Award entries) that we will see new ideas to reduce turn-around time at the gate (novel baggage storage, simpler boarding, better access to seat rows, more intuitive markings and signage just to name a few).
And which circumstances are needed? What need to be improved? Any considerations for sustainability?
Sustainability and ecological focus will continue to grow in importance for our industry. But I am also confident that a lot of innovations in the cabin interiors will eventually pay for themselves. Weight savings, reduced maintenance cost, improved efficiency – everything that positively contributes to the lifecycle cost of an aircraft cabin will be a welcomed improvement.
Do you have any clues or recommendations for young innovators, for students e.g.?
Be brave but remain realistic, be visionary but also learn and understand the constraints in the aircraft interiors industry (we can’t change physics nor economics). But please be aware that this will be a long-term effort and won’t happen quickly.
I know you must be looking through your very specialized eyes sitting in an aircraft. Even I am not able to perceive flight conditions as ingenuous passenger anymore. But if you had a wish free, what would that be from the perspective of a passenger, with or without your knowledge?
I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future, but what I really wish for is a revolution in the commercial air transport system. Our tubular, jet-propelled, subsonically travelling fuselages have been introduced decades ago and maybe it is time to try something new!
And what are your recommendations for future applicants of the Crystal Cabin Award?
There are still plenty of opportunities to radically change our aerospace transportation system and I am sure you can contribute to this. If you already have a future concept or even a product in the pipeline, it is quite simply to enter for the Crystal Cabin Award competition.
We are curious to know, what is your motivation to be a member of the CCA Judging Panel.
It is quite exiting to go through the “Wow” effect every year when you can see and discuss all the entries. There are so many great ideas throughout the different categories of the CCA. And of course my co-judges always contribute with their insight. I wouldn’t want to miss this fun learning environment about the cabin interiors future.
And finally, last question for today. How have you experienced the maturation of the Crystal Cabin Award over the years?
Even from the very first round, the Crystal Cabin Award has always managed to maintain a rewardingly high level of quality of its entries, finalists, and especially its winners. But what is absolutely striking to me is the Crystal Cabin Award’s media coverage. Worldwide media attention, not just in the context of the Aircraft Interiors Expo, and in all types of media channels from major news shows around the globe, printed media, and the vast presence on social media is a clear proof to me that the CCA has matured to a renown and commonly accepted player in the aircraft interiors industry.