Sept. 19 - German scientists have unveiled a prototype 'climate control' airplane seat designed to make air travel more comfortable. They say the seat - on display at the recent Berlin Air Show - could be a boon for air travellers, particularly those on long-distance flights. Jim Drury reports.
Scientists from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute think their adjustable 'climate control' seat could be the solution to a familiar complaint by airline passengers - it's either too hot or too cold during flights and there's little they can do to change it. Currently their only option is to manipulate air jets in the ceiling which blow air directly onto their heads, creating drafts and unwelcome noise. But according to engineer Gunnar Gruen, Fraunhofer's prototype seat - on display at Berlin's recent air show - will bring a new level of comfort to air travel. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRAUNHOFER INSTITUTE ENGINEER, GUNNAR GRUEN, SAYING: "One system, you can see directly here which is an individual nozzle like you know it from above your head. But we tried to bring the fresh air and also humidified air directly into the facial area via this device. Also, we have introduced some air outlets directed close to the passenger where you can bring in the cool or heated air directly near to the passenger." Individual seat heating is another feature. Working with nine private companies, Fraunhofer tested a number of ideas before arriving at the prototype design. It had to meet the strict safety requirements for air travel. It couldn't take up any more space than a conventional seat and the air-conditioning system had the minimise humidity. Crucially, it also had to work without interfering with the pressurisation systems inside the cabin at high altitudes. Gruen says airlines were eager to contribute to the study. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRAUNHOFER INSTITUTE ENGINEER, GUNNAR GRUEN, SAYING: "We asked the airlines what they would appreciate and what we could bring into their aircraft. And they said, 'okay, we don't have any more room, we don't have more time to overhaul those systems so we need to have very robust systems which also have a very short time during the grounding of the aircraft.'" Fraunhofer says their seats are more likely to be seen in First Class cabins than Economy, although no airlines have yet committed themselves to fitting them. But the company is convinced that amid fierce competition, airlines will warm to the concept and that their passengers will agree... the seats are a cool idea.