French engineer tables PlanBay seat separation kit in face of COVID-19

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They say that necessity is the mother of invention. The COVID-19 crisis is prompting airlines to adopt social distancing measures on board by blocking seats and spacing passengers apart. That’s an excellent Plan A for these difficult times. Now French engineer Florian Barjot is serving up a Plan B called “PlanBay” – a removable separation kit concept for economy class seats.

The PlanBay concept has several key goals: provide a kit solution for empty seats to increase physical distancing; be easy to produce and low in cost; support a quick and easy install and removal process; enable cabin crew to maintain a direct view of seat occupants; require no modification to the seats; and comply with certification specifications for large aircraft.

Made of Plexiglass/Polycarbonate sheets, the kit is strapped to the middle seat, creating a divider and a side table for passengers on either side.

PlanBay also features an aft protection panel that increases the height of the seats between rows, effectively adding a higher barrier for passengers seated behind the seat triple.

“With the COVID-19 outbreak, for the first time in recent history, the passenger air traffic dropped globally by 90% during a 2-month period. Due to the uncertainty, we need to be resilient and adaptable. Modern aircraft have efficient air systems that prevent the contagion from one person to the entire passenger population, but the health authorities recommend 1 meter distancing, which is hardly achievable in economy class, even with an empty middle seat,” says Barjot.

“In order to improve the distancing, I imagined this removable kit for an unused seat, that can be used temporarily for the time of an epidemic outbreak and the recovery phase.”

All aircraft seats must pass head injury criterion (HIC) testing during certification. Emergency egress is also a major consideration in seat certification.

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Barjot admits there are some limitations to the PlanBay design – the kit cannot be installed in emergency exit rows, and the seats cannot recline “consistent with distancing measures”, though he suggests that this latter limitation “can be compensated by a lateral head rest” inherent in the concept.

He stresses to Runway Girl Network that PlanBay “is still at the concept phase and I try to assess the market receipt to it, which is quite uncertain with the current debate around the middle seat”.

The designer is reaching out to his contacts in the aircraft interiors sector and has received some positive feedback. “This is really motivating in this gloomy period.”Founder of EarthBay, a Toulouse-based company, Barjot is perhaps best known in aircraft interiors for having conceived a concept that would reimagine the cargo hold for passenger aircraft by replacing the cargo door with a large frame with windows to drive ancillary revenue opportunities for airlines.

Barjot’s PlanBay concept is timely. Italian firm Aviointeriors has proposed two post-pandemic seating concepts, including a design featuring thermoplastic dividers for economy class seats. And UK-based Factorydesign has just revealed a new social distancing screen, as first reported by Design Air.

All images of PlanBay credited to Florian Barjot

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