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Aircraft Cabins across the Globe go Green

Business aviation’s demand for sustainability and carbon neutrality has entered the cabin and has created a significant ripple effect with supply chains and a turning point in environmentally conscious business practices.  Clients now ask specifically in proposals what the manufacturers of aircraft and their suppliers are doing in the interiors regarding sustainability. 

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), completion and refurbishment centers, and interior components providers are getting on board.  For example, sustainable materials and processes are found throughout Gulfstream Aerospace cabins, with extensive use of renewable natural fibers and resources, such as cotton and wool, natural latex and composite veneers.  Many of the materials that Gulfstream is using are recyclable, including aircraft panels made of aluminum honeycomb that can be fed directly into a smelter that melts and separates the metals.  Carpets are recyclable, while nylon and polyester synthetics are sought after by carpet mills to use in creating more carpet; and silk and wool fibers get a second chance in life as jute, rags, or feedstock for paper mills. 

“Sustainable materials are also used in places that are invisible to most people, like areas behind the walls, under the floors, and inside the furnishings,” said Tray Crow, Gulfstream Aerospace interior-design director.  “Gulfstream is also focused on increasing sustainability through innovative technology development, specifically the data concentration network, which significantly reduces the amount of wiring required for the cabin, galley, and flight-deck systems that save weight and materials.” 

Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft and Cessna aircraft have increasingly sustainable cabins, using woods that are sourced by selective cutting in carefully managed forests as well as managing surplus inventory “so that no new trees or other materials are processed or shipped, to help reduce our environmental footprint,” a Textron spokeswoman said.  Textron’s vendors must use materials, products and practices that meet rigorous environmental standards, including fabric headliners and window reveals made from sustainable textiles and certified wood veneers.  Textron is further reducing an aircraft’s overall environmental impact by capturing, treating, and reusing wastewater from its industrial processes such as parts manufacture, chemical processing lines, assembly, and painting.

Duncan Aviation has developed a process known as hydrodipping that is realizing a 25 percent decrease in cost; the ability to keep the existing veneer; an avoidance of cutting down more trees; and an ability to achieve the same elegant look.  The hydrodipping process is a film-transfer that allows a detailed 3D image to be transferred onto almost any solid shape.  The technique involves dipping the selected component into a vat of water containing the film and carefully joining the two. 

“For somebody who wants to be environmentally friendly, you’re keeping the existing veneer, no cutting into more trees, and getting the same elegant look,” said Angie Coleman, Duncan sales representative.  “We’ve achieved fantastic results and the re-veneered wood remains a beautiful, natural product.”