Alireza Yaghoubi of AirGo Design explains the thinking behind a new layout concept designed to make long-haul private flights more eco-friendly
What is your approach to making flying more eco-friendly?
The main argument against private jets is the low number of people on board. We believe that by rearranging the seats and coming up with a more efficient layout, it is possible to effectively double the number of passengers.
We also want to bring our composite technology – which won an Airbus award at JEC 2019 – to the private aviation market. The new microfibre composite is as affordable as aluminium but is some 50% lighter due to its chemistry. Now certified for aircraft interiors, we want to work with OEMs to introduce it to the private jet market.
What other aviation products have you developed?
AirGo Design is primarily associated with Carbon, a full-composite airline seat that has won dozens of design and innovation awards. Carbon’s development is finally reaching its end after four years of hard work, so it is time to venture beyond economy seating.
Trial production of Carbon has begun and our certification team is now focused on qualifying the new composite material as well as the process that enables its production. It was a relatively lengthy development that reached its ambitious goal of combining weight-saving and comfort with competitive pricing. That also means our team of designers and engineers are once again free to work on new ideas.
As part of our new strategy, we unveiled Galaxy, a new business-class seating arrangement. It is designed to offer up to 33% more seats on wide-body aircraft like the B777, while on narrow-body aircraft like A321, it could replace typical recliners with flatbeds at a 1:1 ratio. Galaxy also has privacy dividers that can be lowered via a two-way authentication system, turning neighbouring seats to couple beds and family suites.
How could space be used better on private jets?
Our taste has started to evolve in the past few decades and minimalist designs are becoming more and more common; yet in private jets, space efficiency often does not receive the attention it truly deserves. The seats are bulky and floor space is used lavishly. Galaxy has amassed very positive reactions globally and it was only a matter of time that we would start applying what we have learned from Galaxy to private jets.
Today, more than ever, there is a need for space-efficient solutions. Most people think that private jets are only meant for C-levels in multinational corporations who refuse all sort of contact with the rest of the society, but that is not the case most of the time. A 2018 survey by NBAA suggests that 70% of private flights were linked to small companies with fewer than 500 employees and top management is on board less than 50% of the time. For most companies, a private jet is merely a practical tool, rather than a luxury item. 42% of business jet flights are to places with no airline service, and 80% of flights are into airports in small towns where most airlines do not offer any direct flights to and from major hubs. Flying to these locations via multi-city commercial flights may end up being worse for the planet.
Small companies need private jets to have wider market access, get more productive and run a successful business. In fact, the same NBAA report indicates that companies using private jets outperform non-users by 23% in revenue growth. But how can they afford them? Most jets come with very attractive financing packages and that is why 62% of companies own at least one jet, but that is only the start. In a few years, the running costs can pile up to be more than the cost of the jet itself.
This is all the more reason why increasing head count is important. If one or two people are flying every time, fewer companies can afford business jets and the carbon footprint is also much larger. A higher capacity also means a faster payback period for the original investment. This equally applies to both government agencies and hospitality companies that often use private jets.
Why do we need more flatbeds on mid-size business jets?
Until a few years ago, mid-size business jets were only good for domestic flights; however the new generation of jets offers far better fuel efficiency and enough range for long-haul journeys that would be most productive if the flights were conducted overnight.
A typical executive layout in a mid-size jet offers eight seats but perhaps only four can be used as beds. With Supernova, all eight seats can be turned into a flatbed. Each can be customised with modules for an IFE system, tray table, in-seat power and built-in drink cooler.
It is true that today, the majority of business aircraft flights are domestic, but the NBAA study found that within the last five years there has been a 23% increase in the number of international flights. So we are going to see a larger growth in this segment in the coming years.
When is Supernova going to fly and on what aircraft types?
AirGo is looking to partner with aircraft OEMs to bring Supernova to the market. Supernova can be customised to fit any aircraft with a cabin width of 6ft (1.83m) or higher but it especially targets those that fly longer than five hours.
There are 10 aircraft types that could use Supernova seats. The primary targets are the Embraer Praetor 500, the Gulfstream G280, the Bombardier Challenger 350, the Textron Cessna Longitude and Dassault Falcon 2000S. Other possibilities are the Embraer Legacy 450, Textron Cessna Latitude, Gulfstream G500, Dassault Falcon 6X and Bombardier Global 5000.
Alireza Yaghoubi is co-founder and chief technology officer at Airgo Design. The company will present a seminar on the concept at Singapore Airshow 2020, to be held on 11-16 February 2020.
Click here for a VR tour of Supernova on a Gulfstream G280.