See what our Cabin Lighting Systems Director, Pierre Michard, had to say about his 2022 hopes and predictions for the aerospace sector…
What does 2022 have in store for the aerospace sector?
It seems the time has finally arrived for us to (carefully) re-enter the world in all three dimensions. For us that means the return of physical trade shows. Naturally, I am working on my response to the classic question: ‘how is the industry doing?’
In general, there’s definitely a sense of increased confidence, particularly when you compare the beginning of this year to the start of 2021. We could be looking at a brilliant 2022.
Increase in flights, increase in retrofits
Flight numbers were on the rise throughout 2021, with improving load factors. Though some carriers did not make it through the crisis, the airlines that survived are emerging stronger.
We saw a large number of aircraft changing hands last year, with airlines selecting lighting upgrades as a fast and affordable opportunity to refresh the cabin. Indeed, all retrofit programmes which were suspended by customers in early 2020, were resumed last year, in order to be ready for the 2022 North Hemisphere summer season. We expect many other carriers will follow suit this year and beyond.
I could have picked labour and supply chain, but these are not affecting aerospace more than other sectors. Considering aerospace specifically, the key challenge is the recovery pace of the two OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).
Airbus intends to ramp up to more than 70 A320s per month – will they consider double sourcing to spread their supply chain risk? Some engine manufacturers have already expressed their reservations on casting supplies to support these levels,
For Boeing it’s all about products. When can we expect to see the next generation 787 cabin? What will succeed the NMA (New Mid-sized Aircraft) / MoM ('Middle of the Market') jet and when?
Embraer has been the clearest about production, future platforms and technology which really helps us to plan ahead.
If I could change anything…
If I could wish for one change in aerospace this year, it would be faster technology adoption industry wide. People see cool things from Toyota and Apple at tech shows like CES, and ask when we’re going to adopt similar technology on aircraft.
Using Bluetooth for in-flight entertainment is a big trend at the moment, yet this protocol was invented more than two decades ago in 1996. We used it to play Wii tennis matches with our grandparents in 2008, but it took 12 years for it to become widely available on aircraft. So I’d like to see the industry as a whole step-up and move more quickly.
Integration of the wider systems aviation operates in, is also critical. The 5G vs. flight safety fiasco currently impacting US airports shows that consistency is key. Our lighting goes through weeks of electromagnetic compatibility testing to guarantee safe operations onboard the aircraft, but it seems that 5G networks were rolled out in complete isolation from the aerospace industry.
evtol (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft is a really interesting sector when it comes to approaching innovation, with a more result driven approach to design and financing. Billions of venture capital and SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company) dollars are funnelled towards technology demonstrators. I would love to see the same model applied to mainliners and cabin in particular. These aircraft will remain the bulk revenue and profit contributors to the aviation industry in this decade.
An optimistic outlook
I am firmly optimistic that 2022 will be a brilliant year for the industry. Tim Clark, CEO of Emirates, was concerned the industry may slow down on innovation. From our perspective, our customers still have a strong appetite for innovation, with passengers increasingly expecting a fully immersive travel experience with dynamic lighting scenes, which airlines can tune to their brand.
The long-haul single aisle market requires more capable and smaller footprint products, to create a widebody experience in a narrow cabin. Integration with aircraft systems is going deeper, with smarter data protocol, to make sure cabin crew spend time looking after passengers, rather than operating the cabin systems.
Our products will need to work harder for our customers. More universal designs maximise commonality across platforms and cabin configurations. Resilience to external factors such as supply chain and environmental footprint reduction are now becoming standard requirements in RFPs (Request For Proposal) landing on my desk. I’m looking forward to tackling these challenges and finding the opportunities in 2022.
Pierre Michard, Cabin Lighting Systems Director, STG Aerospace