Image: Airbus

Airbus unveiled an extension to its Customer Definition Centre in Hamburg, expanding its offer to A320 and A330 cabins. Airbus invited APEX Media for a tour of the extended facility ahead this week’s Aircraft Interiors Expo.

Going to Hamburg to visit Airbus’ Customer Definition Centre (CDC) – a playground where airlines can see the vision of their dream aircraft cabin come together – used to be a treat for A350 XWB customers only. Now, Airbus has extended the experience to its A320 and A330 customers, with its recently rebranded Airspace Customer Definition Centre, which now encompasses the CDCs for all three aircraft types.

Image: Ari Magnusson

As with the aim of Airspace, which is to develop a common visual language across all of its aircraft interiors, the CDC buildings are connected so airlines with mixed fleets can easily compare what their cabin interiors look like across different programs.

Airbus uses virtual reality to help customers visualize how a customized cabin layout will look. Image: Ari Magnusson

“Four out of five A350 XWB customers are simultaneously A320/A330 operators. This step is a win-win situation for all involved stakeholders to foster and streamline the cabin definition across their fleet,” said Sören Scholz, senior vice-president, Cabin and Cargo Program, at Airbus. He also added that other trends such as the increasing number of seating segments (with some airlines having up to five on one aircraft), and some airlines going for a cabin refresh two to three times in an aircraft lifecycle, contributed to the need to extend the facility.

3-D glasses help customers to see cabin concept brought to life. Image: Ari Magnusson

Performance, economics, eco-efficiency and reliability of Airbus’ commercial jets has changed the way airlines operate their aircraft. The A320neo LR, for example, is capable of flying on routes up to eight hours and 4,000 nautical miles. “The passenger and the crew spend more and more time on the aircraft. For us as an aircraft integrator, it’s important that we get to understand market trends as early as possible to anticipate and enable changes in our platform,” said Francois Caudron, Airbus’ senior vice-president and head of Marketing.

Image: Ari Magnusson

New to the A320 and A330 CDC that wasn’t seen before in the A350 XWB CDC is an Airbus-developed system that can project cabin floorplans on a 1:1 scale on the ground that enables airlines to quickly test their seating configurations. There’s also the ability to add physical mock-ups of monuments and banks of seating on top of the projection so the airline can quickly get a sense of the physical space, such as trying to push a trolley within the lines to see if it will make a corner without hitting someone’s knee.

Airbus also uses customizable cabin mockups for customers to try out various seat pitches and seat layouts. Image: Ari Magnusson

And as with the A350 XWB CDC, the extension for the A320 and A330 programs relies heavily on using virtual reality as a rapid prototyping tool. Airlines can see “real-time” progress on the cabin definition process with every decision made, down to the details of the trims and finishings, in virtual walk-throughs, and physical walk-throughs that require one to strap on a virtual-reality headset. In fact, in one scenario, the ability to quickly produce a digital mockup early on in the process helped Airbus speed up certification tests and sell an additional monument unit, one CDC staffer said.

There’s a huge choice of textiles and surface materials to choose from. Image: Ari Magnusson

Thanks to the Airspace CDC, the cabin definition process can be condensed, saving time, cost and money, but the satisfaction of being able to see concepts materialize in virtual reality and physical mock-ups is also a thrill.

But Caudron said airlines ultimately spend a lot of time at the CDC because the aircraft cabin is the place where they make their money. “The airline businesses is about minimizing costs and this is why Airbus is making efficient aircraft, but the responsibility of airlines is also about maximizing revenue and this is place all about optimizing their cabin.”