A door closes on the business class seat with a larger gap at the bottom but reaching to the top of the seat.

Collins breaks 45° barrier for side-on Aurora inward herringbone

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HAMBURG — Collins Aerospace’s Aurora single-aisle, inward-facing herringbone seat broke cover this morning at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, marking key firsts in the passenger experience industry’s ongoing exploration of new geometries within the narrowbody business class world. Runway Girl Network sat down with Alastair Hamilton, Collins’ vice president for sales and marketing, for a wide-ranging exclusive discussion on Aurora and what it means for seat development and certification.

At first glance, Aurora might look like a twenty-years-on, doors-added version of the first business class seat with direct aisle access, Virgin Atlantic’s original Upper Class Suite seat. But this doors-optional mini-suite, with its double cassette doors and new seat mechanisms that place the passenger further back in the seat previously, hides many an advancement.

The Aurora seat is large in space. The seat is mostly grey with a blue headrest and details. It offers incredible privacy.

Thanks to a new mechanism, passengers sit further back in the seats than previous herringbone products. Image: Collins

First, Aurora’s herringbone layout hides an industry first: breaking the 45-degree angle away from the aircraft centreline for herringbones, and with it exploring an entirely new set of seat certification requirements. From the design language, it would appear that Aurora is the basis of the American Airlines Airbus A321XLR seat that appeared last year.

Rotation

“The regulations as written only went up to 45 degrees, to cover a forward facing seat or oblique facing seat,” Hamilton tells RGN. “But if you go past 45 degrees, then you’re into new territory. So we’ve been working with EASA to develop a CRI [Certification Review Item] for the new configuration. In doing that, it really optimises the space within the seat, in terms of the width and the length.”

Citing the specific angle as “part of our secret sauce”, Hamilton declined to be drawn on the exact angle away from the centreline for Aurora. It would seem likely that an A320neo (likely the XLR or LR versions of the A321neo) would be at a slightly higher angle away from the centreline than the 737 MAX.

Notwithstanding this challenge, Hamilton says, “a lot of the challenge is around the passenger experience and getting the shape of the shell as a three dimensional curve optimised, so there’s lots of space for your shoulders and your elbows inside the suite at the higher level without impacting the passenger beside you.”

Previous generations of higher walled inward-facing herringbones — most notably the Cathay Pacific seat prior to the 2010 Cirrus model still flying on the airline’s older widebodies — struggled with this space, earning the unfortunate nickname of ‘coffin class’ as a result. 

To attempt to head this feeling off at the pass, Hamilton notes, Collins “opened up the shell as it comes towards the passengers — the shell in the direction of flight, in your eyeline — it turns away behind the head of the passenger in front of you. It opens up an area at the back of the seat there, so you’ve got access to windows, and it gives you more visual space in that area.”

Looking down on the Collin's Aurora business class seat. The seat is grey with a table set for a meal in front and another table to the side. A llarger ight fixture creates a nice ambiance.

The triangular cutout behind the head of the passenger in front is key to the feeling of space, Collins says. Image: Collins

Also notable with the seat are a pair of integrated monuments in front of the first row of Aurora and behind the back row. The front row features a tucked-in ottoman ahead of the seat. Rather than offer a front-row business-plus seat Collins has chosen, in essence, to bump storage backwards and maintain the herringbone tessellation.

The same is true at the back of the cabin, where the tessellation includes an irregular five-sided cupboard, the rear of which is cut into by the headrest of the final seat in the row.

Aurora looks the part, and the industry’s feedback on its space levels will be fascinating. Barring any major setbacks, however, Aurora is likely to find its place in history as the first of a new breed of seats: the sideways herringbone. 

A large IFE screen and a blue foot rest are seen at one of the seat by Collins

Aurora’s doors are a double-cassette design. Image: Collins

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Featured image credited to Collins Aerospace