Combination galley-lavatory modules have been available for the best part of a decade, with some also offering improved accessibility for flyers with reduced mobility and wheelchair users. Yet the tradeoffs of these units — around lavatory space, the wheelchair user transfer process, galley space, flight attendant seating, and passenger visibility safety requirements — have not always proven to be balanced. Moreover, the goal of enabling safe, private and dignified self-transfer to the lavatory for wheelchair users has not always been achieved.
Diehl Aviation’s Skypax galley-lav combination unit is designed primarily to remove the rear lavatories from the seat track area within the Airbus A320 cabin, moving them instead to the wall in front of the rear bulkhead that would previously have held a full galley.
Skypax, Diehl suggests, has a number of structural benefits over other options. Crucially, the lavatory and galley are manufactured as a single module, which enables the two elements to share sideways loads through the galley, stiffening the lavatory’s movement and vice versa. This enables Diehl to avoid creating two walls where lav and galley meet, saving weight and enabling extra width in the lavatory for wheelchair users.
Indeed, it is the wheelchair user’s access of Skypax that is perhaps the most visibly — and demonstrably — impressive, as Diehl showed when it demonstrated the module to Runway Girl Network at the Aircraft Interiors Expo.
In terms of configuration, the two lavatories are arranged parallel to the centreline of the aircraft, with two adjoining doors. Looking towards the rear of the aircraft, the left-hand toilet unit is some 30-50 cm (roughly 12-18 inches) further back compared with the right-hand unit.
The concept of operations is that the centre wall folds away into this space, is secured magnetically, and the airline aisle chair is then rolled directly into the lavatory.
Wheelchair users with sufficient upper body strength will then be able to use one or more of the multiple hand grips — including a triangular shaped option that is designed to be suspended overhead, similar to those used in other accessible settings — to self-transfer, or can be assisted by flight attendants through both doors.
Senior cabin integration manager Sebastian Tivig demonstrates to RGN how the transformation happens:
“The first thing that we do is lift the lower part, open up the first space in between, and then you just pull on the coathook, and the entire upper part neatly folds away. What will happen now is that the flight attendant will take the person in the wheelchair, pull the person in in parallel, and move out” via the other lavatory door.
“The person in the wheelchair will sit [in the left-hand lavatory] on the wheelchair, can activate touchlessly” the seat and other functions if needed, “and then transfers laterally from one lavatory to the other. In our opinion that’s the best way to do it.”
The touchless part of the puzzle Tivig mentions is another key element of this Diehl retrofit offering.
“We firmly believe that, in the near future, touchless and hygienic solutions will be assumed as standard in the aircraft by passengers,” spokesperson Guido van Geenen tells RGN. “Our solution offers airlines advantages such as low weight of the entire kit and low acquisition costs. In addition, the standard desired by passengers can be implemented as an upgrade solution with little effort by the airlines.”
“With its touchless features as upgrade solutions for the lavatory, Diehl Aviation is in the development process of an entire product family with touchless functions meeting passengers’ increased sense of hygiene and safety,” van Geenen says.
“In the lavatory, all relevant functions from the waste flap and the water faucet to the WC lid and the WC flush can now be operated touchless and completely intuitively. Further touchless functions, for example for the door handle and the door lock, are already in development by Diehl Aviation and will soon complement the touchless portfolio. The functions are usually controlled centrally via the Multi Motor Control Unit (MMCU) specially developed by Diehl Aviation. It can be installed very easily and with minor modifications in lavatories already in service.”
After all, van Geenen says, “we take touchless faucets for granted in present-day ground lavatories, why should it be any different on an aircraft?“
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- Press Release: Diehl, Airbus team on touchless lav retrofits, upgrades
Featured image credited to Diehl Aviation