APEX in Profile: Nigel Duncan

Nigel Duncan

Image: Maxim Sergienko

Nigel Duncan
Chief Executive Officer
STG Aerospace

Location: BHD
The future of flight will be: Illuminating
Favorite Airport: SLC
Favorite Aircraft: B787-800 Boeing Sky Interior
Paper or electronic boarding pass? Electronic
Passport stamp you wish you had: Chile
Seatback or PED? Seatback

Nigel has more than 25 years of experience in the aviation industry, including stints at OEMs and entrepreneurial start-ups. He was appointed CEO of STG Aerospace in 2013 after holding several general management and senior sales/marketing positions with leading aerospace companies. Nigel is currently building upon STG’s renowned saf-Tglo® brand with the knowledge and vision of an industry veteran.

What are some of the challenges currently faced by OEMs, and what types of initiatives does STG Aerospace take to accommodate them?

OEMs are looking for reliable, long-term suppliers that they can trust, year in and year out. This year we won our seventh consecutive Boeing Performance Excellence Award. It’s more of a partnership than a supplier relationship. We believe that OEMs struggle with managing the supply base when there isn’t strong communication between them.

What are the challenges on the aftermarket side?

One of the challenges facing the aftermarket is trying to upgrade and maintain aircraft as simply as possible. If clients want to do interior work, they’re looking to do upgrades without having to schedule maintenance events. We try to make it very simple for them by providing upgradability without having to schedule a specific maintenance event. We try to do everything overnight to not take the aircraft out of service.

STG Aerospace offers up to 300 colors via saf-Tglo. What colors have proven to be the most popular?

Historically, airlines have gone with the standard lime-green color with the full luminescent floor-path lighting. But airlines have gotten more interested in their brand, and they’re looking for light colors to be part of the brand, not independent of it. Over the last three to four years we’ve had requests for a larger variety of colors, but there are about ten that are most commonly requested, including oranges, greys and light blues, in addition, of course, to the lime green. Designers sometimes want a blend that matches the carpet or a blend that matches the seating, or sometimes another interior accent of the aircraft.

“There’s a big focus on personal space in the passenger environment – whether in first class, business or economy.”

What interior cabin trends do you find particularly interesting?

I think there are two very interesting trends at the moment. There’s a big focus on personal space in the passenger environment – whether in first class, business or economy — and also on control of the passenger environment. At the most recent Aircraft Interiors Expo, we introduced the world’s first square-beam reading light. Traditional lights can flow onto the seats on either side of you, but our light is designed to shine precisely on your personal space. If the person next to you is sleeping, the last thing they want is to be woken up by a reading light. We look for incremental benefits that can be brought across the entire cabin. All of these little benefits make a sizeable difference to the cabin ambience and how the passenger feels in the cabin.

What other details make a significant difference?

Lighting affects your visual recognition of things. For example, if you have a high-quality reading light, with what’s called a high color rendering index (CRI), it will create a very nice, clean color that allows you to see your magazine very clearly and easily. Food looks better, too. Everything looks its best under high-quality lighting, so that probably has the most impact.

If the light is the right color and saturation level and if you’re able to change between different colors in a subtle, controlled way, you can make passengers feel more relaxed and even affect how much jet lag they will experience, depending on the length of the flight. There are benefits that can be gained from the correct use and adaption of new LED lights.

Of course, there’s also the benefit of creating an improved retail environment for the airline. Light is key to everything that goes on in the cabin. We are conducting some research in our labs and we’re working quite closely with several universities to see how light can be quantified and to give airlines guidance on how to optimize their environments for retail. You will see some of this research coming out before the end of the year.

“There’s so much more we could do for airlines and passengers with a deeper understanding of lighting.”

What do you imagine aircraft cabins will look like in the next 20 years?

That’s a big question. Definitely less wires and more wireless transmission of data. A better understanding of the use of light, too. There’s so much more we could do for airlines and passengers with a deeper understanding of lighting. I also see there being greater levels of service in regards to service delivery, quality of food, the accommodation of cultural tastes and accessibility to communication in real time. I think our society will be permanently “on” in the aircraft and on the ground — people will have seamless communication wherever they are. I would say those are the trends over the next 20 years, but they will probably be significantly addressed over the next 10 years.