Can F1 racing technology shape the future of business class?

Can F1 racing technology shape the future of business class?

At first glance, the cramped and noisy cockpit of a Formula One racer and the cosy cocoon of a business class seat would appear to have little in common, except perhaps speed – where, ironically, that business class seat in flight can be travelling three times as fast as a record-breaking F1 run down the straight.

But the two share a dash of common DNA such as the use of carbon-fibre composites, and that trend looks set to continue under a new partnership between JPA Design and Williams Advanced Engineering, part of the Williams F1 Group.

The coolest middle seat in the sky: JPA Design business class seats frame the ROKiT Williams Racing FW42.

The two cutting-edge firms will work together to evolve F1 materials into the aircraft cabin, with the aim of delivering what JPA describes as "a step-change in cabin layout, passenger comfort (and) fuel-saving... through the application of new interior design and lightweight materials."

JPA's most recent effort for Singapore Airlines – the second-generation Airbus A380 business class seat (below already wrapped in a light but strong composite-fibre shell.

Singapore Airlines' new Airbus A380 business class, by JPA Design

Now the push is on to weave more racing tech into the passenger experience, even through otherwise-invisible touchpoints.

A starting point, revealed at this week’s annual Aircraft Interiors Expo held in Hamburg, is a composite seat structure shaped by JPA Design using proprietary materials processes and expertise by Williams.

"In spite of all the brilliant innovations that we have seen introduced onboard commercial aircraft over the last 20 years,” suggests James Park, Founder and Principal of JPA Design, “it has nonetheless taken a remarkably long time for the acceptance of new materials and new engineering methodologies to be adopted in the aircraft interiors industry.”

The JPA-Williams collaboration aims to create seats that are not only lighter, but can save space – in turn making more room available to passengers in critical areas such as legroom and below-seat stowage – as well as enable airlines to indulge in more bespoke creations.

David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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