How to design an airplane cabin

Designing aircraft is probably the best job in the world," says Paul Priestman of ...

Posted: Sep 7, 2018 1:01 PM
Updated: Sep 7, 2018 1:01 PM

Designing aircraft is probably the best job in the world," says Paul Priestman of London-based design consultancy PriestmanGoode, grinning ear to ear. "It's brilliant."

And as chair of the company behind such game-changing designs as United Airlines' new Polaris business class and the interior of Embraer's new E190-E2, Priestman is at the top of his industry.

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"I don't think people really understand the amount of thinking that goes into the interior of aircraft," admits Priestman.

From leg room to seat depth to storage bin location and capacity, every detail is carefully planned in terms of economy, efficiency and safety, and often a few millimeters can make all the difference.

"Working in the aviation sector is incredibly stringent," he says. "There are limitations everywhere: there's safety; there's weight. But also, it's making the passenger feel as comfortable as possible."

With the Embraer cabin, this includes innovations such as giving passengers more "knee clearance" by repositioning the seat-back pockets, adding ridges on tray tables so phones and tablets can be propped up, and making power sockets easily accessible.

It's about "trying to resolve those stress points," says Priestman. With Embraer and the E2 "we were told how many passengers they wanted to carry, given all this information and we came back with solutions."

Design, he explains, is an integral part of the creation process right from the beginning.

"I think that's where design really works. It's not an add-on. It's working together with engineering to make a better product."

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