Collins Aerospace’s aircraft seat manufacturing facility in Kilkeel, Northern Ireland is working to create “the most efficient production system for a new, innovative and highly complex aircraft seat that is far superior to anything else currently on the market”, according to the plant’s managing director of operations, Alan Henning. To support this ambitious research and development (R&D) project, Collins has invested over £16 million ($20 million-plus) in the Kilkeel site.
Fascinated by Henning’s disclosure, Runway Girl Network sought color about the new product, including whether the seat in question is an economy or premium platform.
“For confidentiality reasons, I can’t go into specifics, but what I can say is that we spend a lot of time listening to and understanding the needs of our customers to design seating experiences that excite and delight passengers,” replied Henning. “This customer intimacy combined with our continued R&D capabilities is the catalyst to our evolved solutions that push the boundaries of comfort, durability and customization.”
As to whether the innovative new seat will use sustainable materials, Henning said: “We are constantly searching for materials and processes that make our products lighter and more robust to minimize aviation’s impact on the environment through reduced carrying weight and associated fuel burn. Sustainable materials, such as thermoplastics are already in use in many of our seating products and will continue to be the case in future seating products.”
Noting that the Kilkeel facility is “still very much in the research and development phase” of the seat, he added that “it’s too early to say what the timeline” for seat certification and delivery will be. The Kilkeel team conducts requisite seat sled testing at Collins’ research and testing facility in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the United States.
The announcement that Collins, a RTX company, has bolstered its R&D investment in Kilkeel was made by Joe Kennedy III, the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs, who visited the Kilkeel premises whilst leading a senior US business delegation to Northern Ireland last year.
“Over the last 50 years in the global aviation seating market, RTX, through its Collins Aerospace business in Kilkeel, has contributed to Northern Ireland’s thriving aerospace sector. It was a pleasure to visit the company and see first-hand its research and innovation. This new investment will see it design and manufacture its new line of passenger seats which will help further its export growth ambitions,” Kennedy said in a statement.
Northern Ireland is indeed a vibrant aerospace cluster that currently manufactures 30% of the global demand for aircraft seats. Collins Aerospace alone now employs over 800 employees at its Kilkeel plant, supporting both narrowbody and widebody linefit and retrofit programmes.
Other key aircraft seatmakers in Northern Ireland include Thompson Aero Seating and new entrant Alice Blu. Carrickfergus-based IPC Mouldings supplies tooling and plastic injection moulded parts and assemblies.
It’s notable that Collins’ investment in Kilkeel comes at a time when industry continues to grapple with supply chain constraints. That makes the seatmaker’s promise to manufacture an aircraft seat “that is far superior to anything else currently on the market” perhaps even more intriguing.
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Featured image credited to Collins Aerospace