APEX Insight: As LED lighting becomes increasingly prevalent in aircraft cabins, the focus is shifting towards understanding the physiological effect of cabin lighting on passengers. Airlines are putting themselves in the passengers’ shoes – or seats – to determine how mood lighting can offer the best possible in-flight experience.
When you hear the term “mood lighting,” you might think of an artistic sunset, a candlelit dinner table, or even a room painted by the light from a lava lamp. Now, thanks to programmable LED cabin lighting technologies, airlines can just as easily “set the mood” for passengers.
Lighting is a fundamental design element that has been around for years. But airframers have only been able to follow the lead of other sectors for barely a decade, now that lighting systems are relatively lightweight and highly flexible. Aircraft cabins can be personalized through color, intensity, zoning and transitions. Both Airbus’ recently introduced A350, and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner were designed with lighting as a key interior feature.
“The huge advantage and opportunity of ambient and functional lighting above is the ability to allow environments to manipulate and present different appearances, thus changing user perception and even mood.”– Paul Wylde, CEO and creative director, paulwylde
“The huge advantage and opportunity of ambient and functional lighting above and beyond most other ‘fixed’ design elements, is the ability to change, transform and flex in real time, allowing environments to manipulate and present different appearances, thus changing user perception and even mood,” says Paul Wylde, CEO and creative director of his San Francisco- and Seattle-based branding and design company.
Passengers can now experience a multitude of lighting palettes during a flight, with specific colors and intensities tailored to different phases of a flight. OSRAM, one of the world’s leading light manufacturers studied the effect of cabin lighting on passengers. Compared to conventional lighting, the study concluded, “with chronobiologically adapted LED lighting in the interior of airplanes, long-distance passengers during flights are more relaxed and reach their destinations in a more activated state.”
“At STG Aerospace, we look to improve the cabin environment from the passenger’s viewpoint. We look at the ways light affects the person’s photobiological response as well as their photometric response. We call this human-centric lighting.” – Nigel Duncan, STG Aerospace CEO
“At STG Aerospace, we look to improve the cabin environment from the passenger’s viewpoint,” says CEO Nigel Duncan. “We look at the ways light affects the person’s photobiological response as well as their photometric response. We call this human-centric lighting – how light impacts the passenger physically, rather than just visually.”
According to Duncan, the company has been working with some key cabin integrators and MROs to develop optimal drop-in LED lighting upgrades for airplane cabins that install in a normal overnight maintenance shift. The result is simple-to-install LED systems that directly replace aging fluorescent lighting incumbent systems, and require no aircraft side modification or software.
Thanks to LEDs, passengers can even enjoy planetarium-like night sky displays on cabin ceilings. Or as in the case of Icelandair’s Hekla Aurora Boeing 757, passengers are greeted with a display of the Northern Lights, mirroring the aircraft’s beautiful exterior paint scheme. “Lighting only makes sense for any branded environment when it’s a fully integrated and considered design element and part of a meaningful brand narrative,” adds Wylde. “Lighting is simply another channel that, when integrated with other elements of the cabin experience, can create a holistic statement.”